The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is a left-of-center organization founded in 1929 that advocates on behalf of left-of-center Hispanic interests. LULAC’s initiatives are executed through programming, political advocacy, and individual member participation at the local level.
Earlier in 2018, LULAC’s leadership suffered after the organization’s former president publically favored right-leaning immigration policies advocated by the Trump administration.
LULAC was originally founded in 1929 to combat discrimination and segregation against Latin Americans and, specifically, against Mexican-Americans. The organization was founded as a result of the unification of three prominent Mexican-American organizations: The Knights of America, The Sons of America, and The League of Latin American Citizens.
The organization claims to be the “oldest Hispanic organization in the United States” and claims to have 132,000 members throughout the U.S. (including Puerto Rico). LULAC reportedly advocates to advance the political influence, health, economic condition, and civil rights of the Hispanic population in the U.S. LULAC advocates for Hispanic Americans through programming, political advocacy, and local membership.
LULAC is an active promoter of left-of-center policies including civil rights reform, liberal immigration policies, and more lenient criminal sentencing. LULAC is particularly opposed to the immigration policies of the Trump administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), claiming that ICE performs “terror strikes” and “lightning attacks” in an attempt to instill “fear and anxiety” in immigrants.
In 2006, LULAC challenged the Texas Republicans over a redistricting plan which undid a Democratic gerrymander. The case, titled League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, alleged that the re-draw violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution because it replaced a redistricting plan adopted in 2003 more favorable to Democrats created by a federal judge in following the 2000 U.S. Census. LULAC criticized the resulting partisan advantage and subsequent “diluted racial minority voting strength.” A three-judge district court found that the legislature not only had the right to redistrict but that the plan was constitutional; the Supreme Court found that while a few districts needed revision to comply with the Voting Rights Act, the plan itself it did not violate the Constitution.
Other notable cases LULAC was actively involved in, or contributed legal assistance to, include White v. Regester, Cisneros v. Corpus School District, Hernandez v. Texas, Delgado V. Bastrop, and Mendez v. Westminster.
The organization’s Form 990 for 2016 shows a total revenue of $795,161 and total expenses of $856,437. LULAC ended 2016 with a fund balance of $7,515. Major financial supporters of LULAC include the left-of-center foundations Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Endowment, Tides Foundation, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund as well as a number corporate foundations, including those associated with the Ford Motor Company, AT&T, Anheuser-Busch, and Caesars Entertainment. Teachers unions have also funded LULAC; the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers have both provided contributions to the group in recent years.
In January 2018, former LULAC president Roger Rocha sent a letter on behalf of LULAC to President Trump conceding to Trump administration proposals for a border wall, an end to the diversity visa lottery, and other increased border security in exchange for a larger pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. LULAC members, appalled by Rocha’s letter, demanded that Rocha step down and even began proceedings to impeach him. Refusing to resign, Rocha filed a lawsuit against LULAC to prevent the board from impeaching him and continued to serve the remainder of his term. The scandal impacted other leaders within LULAC and resulted in CEO Brent Wilkes quitting after more than 30 years of dedication to the organization. The current president, Domingo Garcia, was elected in July 2018 after Rocha chose not to seek re-election for another term amid the controversy.
Prior to joining LULAC, Garcia served on the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He served on the committee for eight years, chaired the Latino caucus, and served on the executive committee. Later, Garcia also served as a Democrat in the Texas State House in the early 2000s prior to a failed bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.
Chief Executive Officer
Sindy M. Benavides is the chief executive officer of LULAC and replaced previous CEO Brent Wilkes. Previously, she was a political director for the 2012 campaign of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and served as a director of community outreach at the Democratic National Committee.