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Pelosi Receives Excellence in Leadership Award from MALDEF

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi was honored with the Excellence in Leadership Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) at their 8th Annual Washington, D.C. Awards Dinner tonight, Wednesday, February 28th at the Capital Hilton. Below are the Speaker's remarks upon receiving the award:

'Thank you, President John Trasviña for that kind introduction.  You should all know that John is a San Franciscan, my constituent, and therefore my boss.  John - thank you for your hard work and the hard work of MALDEF for a more just and fair America.  

'I am truly honored to receive the Excellence in Leadership Award from MALDEF.

'But I came here tonight to commend you for your leadership.  

'For more than 40 years, in working to ensure fair treatment and equal rights for Latinos, your efforts and advocacy have given meaning to our Constitution and to the vision of our Founders.  

'But your victories are not just victories for Latinos, they are victories for all Americans.  You are bringing our nation closer to the ideals of equality and opportunity that are both our heritage and our hope.

'We are all indebted to MALDEF for taking the lead in the case GI Forum versus Perry.  Thanks to your efforts, the United States Supreme Court held last June that Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting plan diluted Latino voting rights in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

'The effects of your efforts were rewarded in December.  The Hispanic voters of Texas's 23rd congressional district were able to choose the candidate of their choice!  And now we once again call our friend Ciro Rodriguez, congressman.  Thank you!

'The legacy of the Voting Rights Act is our continuing obligation to create a society that is more just, more fair, more equal.  Last year, under the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Democrats worked hard to make sure that its reauthorization included 'section 203' - language assistance in voting to millions of American citizens.  We beat back elements in Congress that sought to end language assistance.  House Democrats understand that any diminishing of language assistance is a diminishment of our American Democracy.   

'In the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress, House Democrats were thinking of you.    We were working to make America's Latino families more economically secure, by raising the minimum wage, lowering prescription drug prices, and making college more affordable.

'I salute the work of our esteemed Congressional Hispanic Caucus in helping to pass these bills with the broad bipartisan support they deserve.   

'But our work has just begun. A key priority for you and for the Congress this year is comprehensive immigration reform.  I salute MALDEF's work to create a national, humane, and consistent immigration policy.  I salute the leadership of Senator Specter, as well as Congressman Gutierrez and others in the House, for getting the ball rolling on this last year.  

'Our priorities on immigration reform are clear.  

'First, we must immediately regularize the status of the 12 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S.  Hard-working men and women should not live in fear of a knock on the door that will suddenly separate them from their loved ones.   They should not be afraid to ask their boss for a raise or safer working conditions.  

'Second, we need to establish a path to citizenship that is fair and predictable.  It may be a path of many steps, but the endpoint must be clear and attainable.

'Third, we need to end the terrible backlogs in family unification.  No longer should husbands and wives and parents and children be forced to be apart for years and years.

'Democrats take seriously our first responsibility to the American people: to keep them safe.  We must secure our borders and enforce our laws, but while also protecting against discrimination and adhering faithfully to the rule of law.  

'This is a tall order.  But can we do it?   You know the answer.  Si, se puede! Yes, we can.

'Thank you again MALDEF, President John Trasviña, for this great honor.  Buenas noches.'