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Thomas A. Saenz is president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization.

Often described as the “law fi rm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, commu- nications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access.

What are the biggest priorities for MALDEF in 2014? MALDEF faces a number of urgent challenges in pursuing its mis- sion of promoting the civil rights of all Latinos living in the United States. A major imperative for our nation’s continued success is to reform our immigration system to integrate and provide legal rights and protections to the millions of peaceful immigrants who have contributed immensely to our society, yet live in a precarious legal position. A bipartisan legislative solution that secures an immigra- tion framework that refl ects our nation’s constitutional principles and serves our national interests is essential and timely in 2014. At the same time, last year’s Supreme Court decision temporarily

nullifying the powerful and eff ective Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 demands a legislative solution that will serve the ongo- ing need to protect well-established and emerging minority commu- nities from eff orts to limit their constitutional right to vote and to stem their ability to infl uence electoral outcomes through vigorous and even-handed political competition. In the interim, MALDEF and others must redouble their eff orts in our nation’s courts to defend the right to vote from unlawful deprivation.

DIVERSITY & THE BAR® MARCH/APRIL 2014 Finally, we must re-focus our national debate on

public education reform to emphasize the essential imperative of closing the education gap for minor- ity students. With the size and ongoing growth of the Latino community, our national future depends upon our success in this endeavor. T is success will not be achieved without shifting to a national consensus and commitment to adjusting our public education system to focus on redressing the ongoing inequities that exacerbate the education gap.

How do you see the issue of affi rmative action in higher education evolving? Do you have a prediction for when we will have a defi nitive model of affi rmative action for schools? T e Supreme Court’s decision in the University of Texas case last year reaffi rmed the constitutionality of affi rmative action and reiterated the applicable


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