María “Charo” Juega
Founder and First Chairperson of
The Latin American Legal Defense and Educations Fund, Inc. (LALDEF)
María “Charo” Juega was born in Bilbao, Spain in 1949. She lived in Madrid until her teenage years, when her father received a diplomatic post in Montréal, Canada. Ms. Juega spent three years in Canada before returning to Spain with her family at the conclusion of her father’s posting. After completing her studies at the Escuela Oficial del Ministerio de Turismo, Ms. Juega worked in Spain’s tourist industry until she was offered the opportunity to transfer to a New York based tour agency. Ms. Juega eventually settled in Princeton, New Jersey in 1986 and attended The College of New Jersey, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, graduating magna cum laude in 1992. Using this degree, she switched careers and entered the financial services industry, working as a financial advisor and a Certified Financial Planner. Having been involved in a variety of community organizations and concerned about the struggles of the Latino immigrant community, Ms. Juega and other concerned residents of Princeton founded the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) in 2004. Ms. Juega has served as LALDEF’s first Chairperson, Treasurer, and Executive Director. LALDEF’s mission is to protect the civil rights of immigrants in the Mercer County area, as well as to facilitate access to various public services, education, and create multi–cultural understanding in the community through a variety of services. Of particular note is the Community Photo ID Card Program that is endorsed by the local authorities and allows card-holders access to basic services that had previously been inaccessible. Ms. Juega also serves as a mentor to Latino youth through the LALDEF program, Futuro, helping students transition into post-secondary education.
Prepared by Elizabeth Parker, Associate Archivist.
Hear María Juega discuss how the U.S. immigration laws affecting undocumented workers are dangerously close to creating a permanent underclass of people who have little hope of social and economic mobility and the negative effects this will have on America as a whole:
“Well, immigrants come in all versions and… the immigrant who comes here with a work visa or [a] family sponsorship or [an] employer sponsorship, who comes with an adequate amount of social capital, such as I did for instance, is in a very different situation than the population we [at LALDEF] work with. [That immigrant population] comes here in a clandestine way, with very little human capital, and becomes immediately part of the underclass. An underclass that increasingly has no hope for upward mobility. And that is what we, as a nation, need to be concerned with, because that is what has maintained this country vibrant and an example… to [be] followed by other nations. It’s a—the degree of mobility that has been—social and economic mobility—that has unfortunately stopped for these, for these immigrants. We are blocking every avenue for them to have any kind of progress, and whereas this is very negative for the first generation, it’s certainly of tremendous repercussions for the second generation, because we are for the first time beginning to see that that second generation, it’s moving down. Not only is it not moving up, it’s moving down, and that is in fact killing the American dream; and that’s going to impact all of us… So it is a reflection of the growing split in the nation, between two Americas, you know, and the growing inequality in our society. This is part of the picture, very much a part of the picture.”
Text edited for clarity. For a full verbatim transcript of the quote, please see pp. 39-40 of the complete interview transcript.
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