... lac05.html

Hispanic advocacy group picks new Arizona director
Yvonne Wingett
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Members of League of United Latin American Citizens, plagued with suspensions and bickering, have picked a new state director to lead its estimated flock of 1,000.

Javier Herrera, a 23-year-old Tucson resident, replaces Phoenix's Samuel Esquivel, 52, who has resigned his post after national members twice suspended him for allegedly violating bylaws.

The move, which took place late last month, also transfers the power of the civil rights organization from Phoenix to Tucson. advertisement

Some members say that means a stronger focus on fighting for political, health and education issues that impact Hispanics and immigrants.

"We're concerned the state is turning slightly anti-immigrant," said David Rodriguez, vice president of the organization's far-west region. "We want to continue the organization. We want to help it, help it grow with hard advocacy."

LULAC is working to repair its reputation as an effective advocacy group. Power struggles and squabbling between leaders and members have tainted the organization, once a prominent voice on issues of Hispanic health, politics and education. Members say they must now galvanize and become a credible voice in the public debate over illegal immigration, Proposition 200, the Minutemen Project and legislation that could make life more difficult for immigrants.

LULAC will plan a summit to discuss border issues and will organize a group in hopes of repealing Proposition 200, which requires proof of citizenship to register to vote and to receive some public benefits. They also will work to solidify member relationships.

"Better communication, that's the major issue for state LULAC," said Herrera, alluding to some complaints that Esquivel did a poor job of communicating with chapters across the state. "I'll make sure all LULAC members in the state are on board and know what's going on."

About 200 people from Yuma, Lake Havasu City, Douglas and other towns and cities across the state attended LULAC's May 27-29 state convention in Tucson. Esquivel held a separate conference in downtown Phoenix, attended by about 60. He hopes LULAC members from the southern and central regions will unite and move the group's agenda of social justice forward.

"I hope they come to terms . . . for the sake of the organization and mostly for the sake of the Latino community," said Esquivel, who says he will form a new Latino advocacy group. "It can still happen. You have a lot of dedicated members that have spent a lifetime, 20, 30 years plus being loyal to the organization."

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-4712 or