The delegates to the most widely attended convention in our organization’s 87-year history took this bold step because many of them have seen first-hand the devastating consequences that can come from lax environmental protections. Our members know all too well that under-represented communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the adverse effects of harmful pollution.

LULAC members from across the country have witnessed Grijalva, in his ‘roll-up-your-sleeves,’ hands-on approach to combating harmful, anti-environmental policies. Many have worked directly with him over his 40 years of public service. The enthusiastic support for Grijalva came through loud and clear during the cheers and chants for “Raul” as the resolution received a unanimous vote last weekend.


There was, however, another critical factor in the passage of that resolution beyond Grijalva’s exemplary environmental record.  I was privileged to have served as LULAC’s National Executive Director during the 109th Congress, at the height of a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment throughout this country. LULAC members marched for justice in the wake of documented increases of hate crimes against Latinos, and hatred-filled vitriol toward immigrants, even by mainstream media pundits.  That anti-immigrant fervor was given credence by a legislative proposal known as H.R. 4437 – the Sensenbrenner anti-immigrant bill. I watched, as LULAC members recalled that turbulent time with tears in their eyes, giving visibility even now to the pain in the community that it caused.  While Sensenbrenner’s bill did pass the House, many organizations, including LULAC, vowed that we would hold Members of Congress accountable for that vote.

In politics, as in life, decisions have consequences. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Grijalva’s opponent for the post as Ranking Member, made a decision to support that awful bill in the 109th Congress, that sparked such a turbulent moment for Latinos across this nation. It is the view of my organization’s members that there must be a consequence for that vote. That is why, on behalf of the 20,000 LULAC members around the country, I am compelled to ask that DeFazio do the right thing for his party, and for the House of Representatives, and cede the Ranking Member post to Grijalva by stepping aside.

Wilkes is national executive director for LULAC.