Austin activists furious over LULAC president’s letter to Trump

Feb 01, 2018
Ralph Barrera
Austin students rallied in November in support of a clean DREAM Act that would address the fate of immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as young children. Local members of LULAC are still calling for a clean DREAM Act in spite of a now-rescinded letter from the group’s national president supporting the White House’s immigration proposal, which would include funding for a border wall. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

LULAC members in Austin are among those nationwide who are furious over a letter from the president of the oldest Latino civil rights organization declaring the group’s support for the White House’s proposed immigration plan.

Roger Rocha, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, sent a letter Sunday congratulating President Donald Trump on the White House’s proposed immigration plan. Presented last week, the plan would provide a pathway to citizenship to up to 1.8 million immigrant youth brought to the country as children, while allocating $25 billion for the construction of a border wall.

“It’s disgraceful that the president of LULAC put his personal agenda before the families that LULAC represents,” said Montserrat Garibay, an Austin activist who has been a LULAC member for more than 15 years. “He’s giving the president a support in his white supremacy agenda and that’s a disgrace.”

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Since the release of the letter, critics have been calling for Rocha’s resignation on social media using the hashtag #FueraRocha (fire Rocha), and more than 300 people have signed an online petition. The LULAC Young Adult Membership also started its own petition in support of a clean DREAM Act, a standalone bill on the fate of young immigrants known as Dreamers without any attachments of border wall security.

By Wednesday afternoon, Rocha rescinded his letter to Trump. But that hasn’t quieted the calls for his resignation.

“He’s exercised terrible judgment, and he has jeopardized the credibility of our entire organization,” said Angela Valenzuela, a LULAC member since 2003. “It’s going to be difficult at least for a while not only to recruit people to LULAC, but to want to recruit them with that stain that he has left on the organization.”

Austin-based LULAC Council 22325 is also asking for Rocha’s resignation.

“Yes, we are formally joining the rest of the councils and asking for his resignation for sending the letter without the approval of the executive board,” said council President Gavino Fernandez, who is also on the executive board of directors of LULAC District 12. He reiterated his council’s support to immigrants and for the passage for a standalone DREAM Act.

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“If he’s willing to let out a letter like this without the approval of the board he really has no place representing us at the national level,” said Manuel Muñoz, president of the Austin LULAC Young Adult Council 22318. Muñoz and his chapter were the organizers of last year’s Rundberg protests over immigration raids in that area.

His LULAC chapter released a statement Tuesday night after Rocha’s letter surfaced.

“We are just as disappointed in the letter published as you are, and want to reiterate to the community, that President Rocha’s views are not reflective of the organization’s whatsoever,” the statement read. “A clean DREAM act is necessary and should not involve the building of any wall or any other stipulation. Human beings are not bargaining chips.”

Muñoz said he had contacted LULAC board members at the national level who told him that they hadn’t seen the letter before.

Washington state LULAC Director Diana Perez said the letter hadn’t gone through the national board’s approval, the Associated Press reported.

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In Rocha’s letter, the LULAC president says Trump’s proposed immigration plan is something that “LULAC can support if they remain within the current framework you have proposed.”

“We at LULAC will continue to do our part in making your vision a reality,” the letter said. “Continue keeping LULAC involved in the dialogue, we will inform our membership and our communities of this great achievement we have accomplished together.”

According to AP, Rocha said he had no intention of stepping down.