LOS ANGELES – MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) recognized the contributions of three Latino leaders at its Los Angeles gala last week for their commitment to protecting the civil rights of the Latino community.

“At a time of great challenge for the Latino community, what a treat it is to honor such heroic leaders,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “This coming year, our Latino community will be called upon to lead the nation in rejecting the anti-democratic and white supremacist threats to our republic; our history and leadership demonstrate that we are ready to meet that challenge.”

This year’s honorees included celebrated transgender activist, Bamby Salcedo, who received the Excellence in Community Service Award. In 2009, Salcedo founded the TransLatin@ Coalition and serves as its president and chief executive officer. Since its inception, the organization has focused on advocating for and organizing Latine transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex immigrants who reside in the United States. Salcedo has been recognized by various organizations for her work helping trans youth gain access to healthcare services. She has also helped to establish several organizations that give visibility to the issues affecting trans people, immigrants, and individuals who are incarcerated. In 2017, Salcedo and the TransLatin@ Coalition founded the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness in Los Angeles.

“I am so grateful and honored that I get to be recognized by one of the oldest Latino organizations in this country,” Salcedo said. “The fact that I am being recognized for my work from such a prestigious organization speaks volumes about the organization’s intention in the work that they do. I’m extremely grateful that as a Trans Latina I get to be recognized by my peers. Thank you so much for honoring my #TransLatinaPower.”

Victor Narro, a professor and nationally recognized expert on immigrant rights and low-wage workers, was also honored with the Excellence in Community Service Award.  Narro has spent nearly 40 years advocating for the Latino community. In the 1990s, Narro joined MALDEF, helping attorneys fight against California’s Proposition 187, a ballot initiative that sought to deny social services such as a public K-12 education and social services to individuals who were not authorized to be in the United States. While at MALDEF, he also helped defend the First Amendment right of day laborers to seek work in public spaces. In 1997, he joined the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) as director of its Workers’ Rights Project. While there, he helped create the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), a coalition of more than 50 community organizations dedicated to improving the lives of day laborers. Narro is currently a faculty member at UCLA, where he helped create the first Labor Studies Program major. As program director, Narro continues to advocate for the link between immigrants and labor movements. The program has been instrumental in helping to pass local and state laws supporting day laborers, garment workers, and other low-wage workers.

“This recognition from MALDEF is my activist life in Los Angeles coming back full circle, as it was 30 years ago that I moved to this city and began my work at MALDEF’s Los Angeles Regional Office,” Narro said. “It is a reminder why we must always see one another as an activist family where we always prioritize our interconnectedness as we engage in the work for justice.”

Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, was also recognized for her work with the Excellence in Community Service Award. MALDEF is a founding member of the Campaign, a nonprofit policy advocacy and research organization committed to ensuring more Californians have an equal opportunity to attend and succeed in higher education. Since taking the helm at the Campaign, Siqueiros has helped implement policies and programs that have made it easier for California community college students to transfer to state universities and has released critical research on college access and success rates, the lack of diversity among college leaders and faculty, and the need for improvements to close racial/ethnic gaps. Siqueiros has built the Campaign into an independent and influential organization by raising over $29 million in funding, securing higher education legislation, and establishing a network of over 12,000 coalition supporters.

“There is no higher honor than to be recognized by my very own heroes at MALDEF, trailblazing civil rights leaders that have championed the rights of Latinos in America,” Siqueiros said. “As a first-generation college graduate, my ability to influence state policy and university practices to address racial inequality in college preparation, access, and success, is driven by a love for our community, a passion for racial equity, and a hope for achieving true American equality that sustains our democracy.”

MALDEF recognizes the significant contributions of these outstanding leaders and their dedication to advancing civil rights for all. The event draws notable government and community leaders from California and around the nation.