ABA Hispanic Commission: A Voice for the Underrepresented

Timely and exciting projects are under way for the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities (Hispanic Commission). At a time when Mexicans, immigrants, and their children are being singled out, and Executive Orders issued by the Trump Administration on immigration, deportation, and travel have created unprecedented fear in the Hispanic community, the work of the Hispanic Commission could not be more relevant.


The Hispanic Commission is actively engaged in addressing the challenges facing Hispanics in and within the legal system of the United States. Through its working relationship with Univision Chicago, the commission is educating the legally underrepresented Spanish-speaking community on a weekly basis via the televised news segment “Conozca Sus Derechos” (“Know Your Rights”). In January, the news segment celebrated two years of being on the air, and being a voice and resource for the community. The segment features a Spanish-speaking ABA member who speaks in his/her personal capacity on a specific legal topic. Previous topics included landlord-tenant, labor law, employee benefits, business law and succession issues, estate planning, family law, and special needs law. We are proud that featured attorneys have included Hispanic and non-Hispanic attorneys (African-American, Anglo, and Asian) participating on the segment thus showcasing true diversity and inclusion within our work.

In response to the fear and uncertainty generated by the recent Executive Orders on travel, immigration and deportation, the commission recently held a four-hour immigration phone bank with Univision Chicago. Volunteer ABA Spanish-speaking  immigration attorneys rose to the occasion and answered over 300 calls from viewers. The phone bank was a great success, and additional phone banks are being planned with other Univision affiliates across the country.


The landmark US Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966) which requires that law enforcement officers give specific warnings to an individual prior to custodial interrogation marked its 50th anniversary. Fifty years after Miranda, law enforcement has made no effective effort to develop a culturally and substantively accurate translation of the Miranda warning. This is an important issue, and one that the commission addressed in the drafting of Resolution 110.

Resolution 110 was unanimously passed by the House of Delegates at the 2016 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The resolution urges federal, state, territorial, and local law-enforcement authorities to provide a culturally, substantively, and accurate translation of the Miranda warning in Spanish. The Hispanic Commission plans to implement Resolution 110 in a way that it will assist law enforcement personnel in administering accurate Miranda warnings in Spanish so that Spanish-speaking suspects can know their rights. The implementation process is a collaborative effort between the Hispanic Commission, the Center for Innovation and the Section of Criminal Justice.

2017 and Beyond

Hispanics in this country cannot and should not be living in fear or uncertainty. I bet that most of the Hispanic lawyers in the country have a personal story that may go back one, two, or more generations, where one can identify an immigrant family member who came to this land for a better life. It was through the strength and courage of that one family member that made it possible for the current generation to become a member of the legal profession. Hispanic culture instills in its children to never forget one’s roots nor the sacrifices of previous generations. Many of today’s Hispanic lawyers see the face and story of their own ancestors in the new wave of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries.

The current political climate may mean a heavy workload for the Hispanic Commission, but it is a responsibility it gladly accepts in the name of the ABA’s mission to advancing the rule of law and working towards eliminating bias and prejudice.

About the Author

Richard Pena is the chair of the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities, and is a past president of the State Bar of Texas and a past member of the ABA Board of Governors. Connect with him on Twitter @RPenaLaw.

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