Leading Latino Legal Civil Rights Organization Hosted Annual Gala in San Antonio

September 9, 2016

SAN ANTONIO, TX - On Friday, September 9, 2016, MALDEF, the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization, hosted its 2016 San Antonio Gala and honored the remarkable work and achievements of three influential leaders in advancing the Latino community. The annual event took place at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio's Univision41 anchor Antonio Sánchez served as Master of Ceremonies. MALDEF President and General Counsel, Thomas A. Saenz, delivered remarks highlighting the current challenges and opportunities Latinos face in the effort to secure greater equality.

"San Antonio is where MALDEF was founded almost half a century ago, and our historical and ongoing critical work here demonstrates that our presence and commitment in Texas will be essential elements of MALDEF's success in the next half century," stated Saenz. "So much of civil rights law for the entire nation will be formed out of the challenges faced by the growing Latino community in the state of Texas."

Texas State Senator, The Honorable José Rodriguez, received the Valerie Kantor Award for Extraordinary Achievement. The Kantor Award is MALDEF's highest recognition, reserved for organization leaders; Senator Rodriguez has served on MALDEF's board of directors for many years. Senator Rodriguez represents a district that includes more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border, and is a staunch advocate for vulnerable residents. He has passed more than 150 bills during his three legislative sessions, including notable legislation transforming the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso from a branch of the Lubbock-based health sciences center to an independent, stand-alone university component of the Texas Tech University System. Senator Rodriguez is the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus (SDC), and has received numerous awards for his hard work and tenacity.

José Roberto "Beto" Juarez, Jr., Professor of Law and Director of the Lawyering in Spanish Program at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, received the Excellence in Legal Service Award. He served as dean at the College of Law from 2006 to 2009, when he implemented a bar passage program that increased the bar passage rate of students from 66% in July 2005 to 91% in July 2009, enrolled classes with improved entering credentials, added almost 11 full-time faculty, instituted a clinical fellowship program, and raised over $15 million in gifts. He currently teaches courses in civil procedure, conflict of laws, constitutional law, employment discrimination law, civil law systems of Latin America, and remedies. Professor Juarez directed MALDEF's employment program and its Los Angeles office from 1987 to 1990.

Community Activist, María Antonietta Berriozábal, received the Excellence in Community Service Award. A founder and co-founder of Latina women's organizations locally and nationally, Berriozábal is a premier grassroots organizer. In 1994, under the Clinton administration, she served as U.S. Representative to the Inter-American Commission on Women of the Organization of American States and as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. In 1981, she made history as the first Latina ever elected to the San Antonio City Council, where she served for a decade, before being narrowly defeated in an unprecedented mayoral candidacy in 1991. Berriozábal has been a tireless champion of human rights, fair government, and a clean and healthy environment for over 50 years. Berriozábal is a member of MALDEF's board of directors.

The annual gala attracted notable elected officials and community leaders who gathered to celebrate the honorees and MALDEF's long-standing civil rights leadership.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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