Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund advocates for the nearly 45 million Latinos living in the United States, providing legal assistance, educational support, and employment assistance. It is the leading Latino civil rights organization in the United States.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) was founded in 1968 by Tijerina, PetePete Tijerina, a civil rights attorney working with the League of United Latin American CitizensLeague of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Impressed with the work of the Legal Defense Fund, a project of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored PeopleNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he concluded that Mexican Americans needed a similar source of organization and funding to protect their civil rights. With a five-year, $2.2 million grant from the Ford FoundationFord Foundation, Tijerina and a board of directors established MALDEF, with headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, and offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico. The grant was to support the legal defense of Mexican Americans’ civil rights, with $250,000 set aside for scholarships to Chicano law students. MALDEF also received a pledge of support and guidance from the more experienced Legal Defense Fund. By 2009, MALDEF had additional offices in Chicago, Atlanta, andWashington, D.C.Immigration lawyersMexican American Legal Defense and Education FundEducation;Mexican American Legal Defense and Education FundImmigration lawyersMexican American Legal Defense and Education FundEducation;Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund[cat]MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS;Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund[03450][cat]ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS AND MOVEMENTS;Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund[03450][cat]EDUCATION;Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund[03450]

According to its mission statement, MALDEF works to ensure “that there are no obstacles preventing [Latinos] from realizing [their] dreams” and “to secure the rights of Latinos, primarily in the areas of employment, education, immigrants’ rights, political access, and public resource equity.” To accomplish its goals, MALDEF operates several targeted programs. Its Employment and Equal Opportunity Program helps Latino workers obtain fair wages and benefits by educating workers about their rights and by litigating against illegal discrimination. The Parent School Partnership and Community Education and Leadership Development programs help people understand and advocate for their rights. The Public Resource Equity Program works to ensure that Latino communities receive their fair share of public funding and other public resources; to support child-care programs, domestic violence shelters, health clinics, and other programs; and to see that there are enough bilingual staff members at appropriate agencies to assist Latinos in understanding their rights and responsibilities.

MALDEF’s legal division has won several important cases, helping to protect the rights of Latinos on issues of language and access to medical care and housing. It successfully fought to overturn California;Proposition 187[a]Proposition 187;overturning ofCalifornia’s Proposition 187 (1994), which was designed to bar illegal immigrants from public education, health care, and social services. MALDEF also fought against the expansion of authority of the U.S. Border Patrol and against illegal voter redistricting in Los Angeles that would have weakened Latino political power. It has convened meetings and litigated cases regarding the rights of guest workers and has filed suits to clarify and limit the authority of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (later U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to conduct searches. In addition to legal work, MALDEF has sponsored radio spots in Spanish to help new immigrants navigate their new environment.Immigration lawyersMexican American Legal Defense and Education FundEducation;Mexican American Legal Defense and EducationFund

Further Reading
  • Acosta, Teresa Palomo, and Ruthe Winegarten. Las Tejanas: Three Hundred Years of History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
  • Chavez, Linda. Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation. New York: Basic Books, 1991.
  • Storey, John W., and Mary L. Kelley. Twentieth-Century Texas: A Social and Cultural History. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2008.

Border Patrol, U.S.

Chicano movement

Civil Rights movement

Guest-worker programs

Immigrant aid organizations

Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S.

Latinos and immigrants

Mexican immigrants

Proposition 187

Sociedad Progresista Mexicana

Categories: History