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MALDEF Update | AGIF/MALDEF Sue Cemetery


MALDEF Suit Stops Exclusion of Mexican Americans from “Whites Only” Cemetery 

Normanna Cemetery Association Agrees that Refusal to Bury Latino Residents is Discriminatory and Violates Rights of Latinos

American GI Forum of Texas, Inc. Report: CORPUS CHRISTI, TX— A MALDEF lawsuit filed in April aimed at stopping the exclusion of Mexican Americans from being buried in a “Whites Only” Cemetery came to a swift end Friday when the Normanna Cemetery Association agreed in court that its policy is discriminatory and violates the rights of Latinos.

MALDEF filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American G.I. Forum of Texas, Inc. a non-profit membership organization that serves and advocates on the behalf of Latino military veterans throughout the State of Texas.

“Separation after death is one of the cruelest and most wholly inexplicable of all historical policies of racial exclusion,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel.  “MALDEF is pleased to have placed one more of these anachronistic policies in the realm of antiquity, where they belong.” 

MALDEF and the Normanna Cemetery Association informed a federal court in Corpus Christi, Texas Friday that the Normanna Cemetery Association agreed to have judgment entered against it in the case and further agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting the Cemetery Association from denying burial to individuals on the basis of race. 

“We were shocked to know this type of discrimination still exists,” said John Martinez, Commander of the American G.I. Forum of Texas, Inc. “We warn other cemeteries engaging in similar practices that we will not tolerate it and stand ready to take you to court to ensure equal rights for all Americans, especially those who have served our country."

Located in the community of Normanna in Bee County, the San Domingo Cemetery has for decades maintained a policy of prohibiting Latinos and African Americans from being buried in the cemetery.  Earlier this year, the racially exclusionary cemetery refused to bury Pedro Barrera, a Mexican American resident of Normanna.  His wife Dorothy sought to have him buried at the cemetery, but in response to her request for burial services, the San Domingo Cemetery caretaker told her “absolutely not.” He explained that the association had already voted against the request and directed Mrs. Barrera to bury her husband at a different cemetery.

“It is difficult for communities to heal from historic racial wounds when discriminatory policies such as segregation still exist,” said Marisa Bono, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel and lead counsel for the plaintiff.  “This case sends a clear message - these practices are against the law and lead to serious consequences.” 

State Commander John Martinez and AGIF Texas CEO Gil Rodriguez heloed and  worked with MALDEF's Celina Moreno, Legislative Staff Attorney and Marisa Bono, MALDEF’s Southwest Regional Counsel and attorney of record on this suit since it was first reported. We have also kept National Commander Angel Zuniga updated on the progress and status of the issue since he brought this to our attention.  A copy of the original complaint in this case is available from the AGIF State Office. 


Update on MALDEF/AGIFTX Suit to End “Whites Only” Cemetery in Texas
Judge Sets Status Conference for August 22, 2016 

By Nina Perales, MALDEF Vice President of Litigation

American GI Forum Report: Brownsville, Texas  – After presenting oral argument to Judge Hanen and write to share good news regarding Texas v. U.S. Following our argument, which focused on the harms to DACA recipients of forcing the Government to send their personal information to the court, Judge Hanen agreed to "stay" his order, which means it will not go into effect. He also set another status conference for August 22, 2016, in order to discuss next steps (if any) in the case.

I am happy to report that the federal government is not required at this point to turn over to the court the personal information of approximately 50,000 immigrant youth who received three-year grants of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) between November 2014 and February 2015. 

Today we argued, successfully, that no legitimate basis exists for punishing innocent immigrant youth in order to address what the court considers to be misconduct by attorneys for the United States. 

MALDEF ensured that the voices of those youth were front and center at today’s hearing. We shared the stories of Javier H.G. and Cristina R., two Texas DREAMers who would suffer a devastating impact should their names and other personal information be released. Judge Hanen had claimed he wanted the personal information so he could consider giving it to the states who have sued the Obama Administration over Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the expansion of DACA. Although Judge Hanen said his order was intended to sanction the United States for alleged attorney misconduct earlier in the case, it is those brave youth who would have suffered the most and we focused our argument today on that issue. 

As for the upcoming decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on DAPA and expanded DACA, in which MALDEF represents the only parties granted intervention in the case, we expect an opinion no later than June 30. Stay tuned for more MALDEF updates.

Thank you,                                                 

Nina Perales
MALDEF Vice President of Litigation


MALDEF Sues to End “Whites Only” Cemetery in Texas
Seeks Court Order to Halt Exclusion of Mexican Americans

American GI Forum of Texas, Inc. Report: CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (May 29, 2016)— Today, MALDEF filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court against the Normanna Cemetery Association and its caretaker for maintaining a policy of burying only Anglos in the San Domingo Cemetery, in violation of state and federal prohibitions on race and national origin discrimination.  MALDEF filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American G.I. Forum of Texas, Inc. a non-profit membership organization that serves and advocates on behalf of Latino military veterans throughout the State of Texas.

“Post-mortem racial segregation in the 21st century is astounding,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel.  “This case demonstrates how regrettably deep the roots of anti-Latino prejudice are in this country and in Texas.”

Located in the community of Normanna in Bee County, the San Domingo Cemetery has for decades maintained a policy of prohibiting Latinos and African Americans from being buried in the cemetery.  Earlier this year, the cemetery refused to bury Pedro Barrera, a Mexican American resident of Normanna.  His wife Dorothy sought to have him buried at the cemetery but, in response to her request for burial services, the San Domingo Cemetery caretaker told her “absolutely not.” He explained that the association had already voted against the request and directed Mrs. Barrera to bury her husband at a different cemetery.

“Segregated cemeteries were part of an architecture of discrimination against Latinos in Texas,” said Marisa Bono, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel and lead counsel for the plaintiff. “We look forward to closing this shameful chapter in our state's history.”

One of the earliest advocacy efforts of the American G.I. Forum of Texas centered on the exclusion of a Latino World War II veteran from funeral services because of his race.  The incident, now known as the “Felix Longoria Affair,” happened in Three Rivers, Texas, only thirty miles from Normanna.

“This is morally wrong,” said John Martinez, Commander of the American G.I. Forum of Texas, Inc.  “It happened in the 1940s and 1950s and, in today’s time and age, I can’t believe this is still happening to Hispanics and Hispanic veterans.”

MALDEF seeks a court order that puts an immediate end to the discriminatory practices at the San Domingo Cemetery and allows people of all races to be buried there.

We will give you updates on the status of this important issue.

 

 

 

 

 

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