Latino Advocacy Council in Eugene
Byline: Kelly Ardis The Register-Guard
Even with 900-plus local councils scattered across the country, the League of United Latin American Citizens has never had a presence in Oregon - until now.
Lane County is making history as the first Oregon LULAC council since the organization was established in 1929, and Juan Carlos Valle said he is honored to be the local council's first president.
"We're excited about the historical step of (LULAC) coming to Oregon," Valle said. "It takes a lot of people (to get a council started), and I'm humbled by the opportunity to start the process and bring everyone together."
LULAC, which bills itself as the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy group in the nation, works to fight discrimination and improve the lives of Latinos, said Valle, a Social Security Administration insurance specialist who also ran a spirited but unsuccessful campaign last year for a seat on the Eugene City Council.
After noticing a LULAC presence in Oregon was lacking, Valle set about creating a council here. He first inquired about the process with the national council in August. In January, a regional vice president for LULAC, Mickie Solorio Luna, visited Lane County to assess the community's needs.
With an executive team and more than the minimum 10 members in place, the Lane County council was approved last month. The approval was not only good news locally but also for the national council, which "wanted to come to Oregon for a long time, and they're happy to have us come aboard," Valle said.
Solorio Luna said in a press release that the national organization was responding to the many calls it received to come to Oregon to support "the Dreamers" - young people who stand to benefit from the so-called Dream Act, federal legislation that would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal aliens who graduate from U.S. high schools and arrived in the United States. LULAC also wants to "engage the University of Oregon, ensure a place for people in civic engagement and secure inclusion and participation of people at all levels in the community and public service," Solorio Luna said in the statement. "We will be building upon the voting power and collaborate with groups across the board."
Valle himself is no stranger to civic engagement. After coming to the United States from Mexico City in 1989 and working in orchards, Valle eventually acquired his GED, and then earned degrees from both Lane Community College and the University of Oregon. He's been involved with Centro LatinoAmericano, the Eugene Police Commission, the Hispanic Affairs Advisory Council, the United Coalition of Color and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, among others.
Valle said he feels his experience dealing with a range of private and public entities will serve him well in representing Lane County's Hispanic residents and their issues.
"I'm not the kind of person who approaches entities with my problems and says, 'Go fix them,' " Valle said. "I say, 'Here are the problems. …