President’s Message

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) is the leading civil rights voice of the Latino community.

December 2020

President’s Message

Virtually every person in the world has experienced the burdens of the year 2020, with an unprecedented pandemic and an associated recession, together with numerous, prudent yet burdensome, restrictions on family, social, and business interactions.  The Latino community has, as the headlines often revealed, borne more than its share of those burdens — Latinos in the United States have higher rates of infection and death from COVID-19 and higher economic impacts from the economic downturn.  Thus, the Latino community, as much or more than any other in this country, is eager to put this year behind us and move into a more healing and compassionate 2021.

Yet, through all of this, the Latino community has also had to struggle with a multi-year campaign of attempted statistical genocide, led by the president of the United States, Donald Trump.  The term seems harsh, but apt, because there seems no better shorthand to describe an effort to have millions of persons from a particular racial/ethnic group disappear from the results of our constitutionally required decennial Census.  It began with the attempt to add a citizenship question, with the clear aim of reducing substantially the number of Latino households that would get fully counted in the Census.  When that attempt failed, Trump ordered the creation of a citizenship database through other means, with the stated objective of permitting states to subtract non-citizens from the Census count used to redraw electoral lines.  Even while MALDEF’s fight against that executive order was still pending, Trump issued a memorandum stating his intention to subtract millions of undocumented residents entirely from the Census numbers used to distribute House seats among the 50 states. 

Through this ongoing policy battle over the attempt to dis-count, in multiple ways, millions of Latino community members, MALDEF has been there, in court and in Congress, in community and online, to lead in defending the Latino community’s right and need to be counted, as fully as possible, and to be included, as the Constitution requires. 

The attempt to erase so many millions of Latino people from our nation’s statistical portraits seems even more cruel because so many of those to be excluded have labored heroically on the front lines of the response to the pandemic in 2020. 

At MALDEF, we look forward to 2021 with the hopeful expectation that our friendship and partnership with all of you will yield a more inclusive and united America.  We look forward to the term “statistical genocide” becoming a one-time historical anomaly.

Thomas A. Saenz

President and General Counsel

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund