LSNJ Justice Series: Issues Impacting the Latinx/Hispanic Community

December 13, 2023

On December 13, 2023, Legal Services of New Jersey presented the latest webinar in its Melville “De” Miller, Jr., Justice Series, Issues Impacting the Latinx/Hispanic Community in New Jersey. The Melville “De” Miller Justice Series is free, open to the general public, and created in honor of LSNJ’s founder, De Miller. The programs are designed to highlight areas of broad social and legal justice that have an impact on the low-income community in New Jersey—from new advocacy or government initiatives to specific issues or areas of law.

The panel was moderated by LSNJ board member Carlos Bollar, partner at Archer and Grenier, president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, and past president of the NJ Hispanic Bar Association. After a brief welcome from LSNJ Senior Vice President Akil Roper and remarks from Lourdes Blanco, counsel, on behalf of the program’s sponsor, Verizon, Bollar introduced and then posed questions to the panelists, in turn.

Senate Majority Leader and representative of the 29th District Senator Teresa Ruiz was the first speaker and delivered remarks to frame critical issues impacting the community and steps her office has taken to improve outcomes through legislation, particularly in areas of early education. She also suggested that we need to rethink the way we approach our traditional education model, in part to prevent “summer slides,” including Saturday classes and modified schedules.

Peter Rosario, president and CEO of Newark-based La Casa De Don Pedro, New Jersey’s largest Latinx-led organization, discussed the organization’s work in its three established ”pillars”—Early Childhood, Healthy Homes, and Community Empowerment—and further highlighted the results of the organization’s recent community needs assessment. Among other findings, he pointed to the fact that many in the community do not receive needed government assistance and services due to immigration status. He also discussed the need for social services in the community, and that his organization in particular helps people access a variety of resources, including utility assistance.

Anna Maria Tejada, partner with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr and former president of the New Jersey Hispanic Bar Association, offered her perspectives on the challenges faced by women of color in the profession. She expressed the important need for lawyers who represent and reflect the communities they serve and to strive for and attain diversity among judges in the courtroom. She also stressed the importance of mentorship to help foster career and personal development, particularly among young people of color.

Felipe Chavana, executive director of Essex Newark Legal Services (ENLS), discussed the issue of the displacement and concerns of the systematic removal of low-income people of color from their neighborhoods through eviction and lack of affordable housing. Jose Ortiz, deputy director of ENLS, argued the need for collective action, and to work against the destructive forces in the community which Chavana described.

Collectively, the panelists provided various viewpoints that touched on significant issues and provided a framework for further thought, collaboration, and action. The Melville “De” Miller, Jr., Justice Series offers free CLE credits for lawyers in New Jersey. For information on sponsoring an upcoming Justice Series event, email [email protected].

The opinions and ideas expressed by the invited speakers, panelists, and community members are broadcast to inform and educate, to expand thought and stimulate discussion, and may not necessarily represent the position or views of LSNJ. Nothing contained herein is it meant by LSNJ to attempt to influence government decision making, enacting, changing, or removing legislation, rules, or other covered government actions, nor is it meant to encourage others to contact government officials with that position.


Additional documents (PDF format) used in the training are below: