Fifty years ago, Senator Robert F Kennedy joined UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez to break a 25-day, water-only fast to recommit the union to nonviolence. 

Since then, the Kennedy family and the farmworker movement have been bound to honor nonviolent organizing.

With each asylum seeker we welcome, each warm meal we serve, each family we reunite, border communities are demonstrating what it looks like to respond to humanitarian need with care, concern, and love.

In the midst of family separation, perpetrated by Trump and his Administration, the Kennedy’s went to South Texas. Kerry Kennedy and LUPE’s Co-founder Dolores Huerta kicked-off a 24-day prayer and fast chain, a fast that reminded many of the histories shared by our families.

La Unión del Pueblo Entero is rooted in the sweat, tears, hard work, dedication and the many other struggles of immigrant and farmworker families.

The Rio Grande Valley is surrounded by the border wall on one side and checkpoints intended to separate an entire border community from the rest of the nation. LUPE works with the low-income immigrant community who has decided to migrate to the United States for a better way of life. It has been 15 years of work in the Rio Grande Valley, the poorest area in the nation, but rich in culture and resiliency.

LUPE helps low-income residents of the South Texas border organize themselves to build power, create opportunities, and win a better quality of life. With the current humanitarian crisis we have at the border, LUPE families welcome new immigrants into the nation while advocating for long-term immigration reform.

Since 2016, our home has faced different and difficult challenges. Our home remains determined to resist and overcome the vicious anti-immigrant measures imposed by the current administration.

But the president is ignoring his humanitarian responsibilities. He’s using children and other vulnerable people to manufacture a crisis at the southern border. It’s a cynical ploy to push for more money and more legal authority to cage families and children, exclude asylum seekers, and build wasteful and damaging border walls.

It’s so important that we push back on Trump’s attacks on new immigrant families and asylum seekers at the border. If we don’t, those tactics will soon be extended to families who have made this country their home.

That’s why LUPE members are advocating for a humanitarian response to humanitarian need. If the president’s efforts to stoke fear are successful in securing funding for militarization over a humanitarian response, it won’t just be asylum-seeking families that suffer.

The prestigious RFK Human Rights Award means that more people will learn about the work of LUPE members to create a border region where families can remain together and all can thrive.

Editor’s Note: Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of La Unión del Pueblo Entero, gave the above remarks in Washington, D.C., on Thursday after her community group became a John F. Kennedy 2019 Human Rights Award Laureate. Along with Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV and the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee on El Paso, LUPE won the award for advocating and organizing for the rights of migrants in border communities. Click here to view a livestream of the awards ceremony.

About the John F. Kennedy Human Rights Award

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award honors an individual or group of individuals who stand up to oppression at grave personal risk in the nonviolent pursuit of human rights. Since inception, the Human Rights Award has honored activists from 30 countries.

The aim is to forge strategic partnerships with laureates whose work advances human rights causes all over the world. In combining resources and collaborating on strategy, the laureates amplify their transformative work to a worldwide audience.

Over the past 36 years, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award has honored over 50 activists and organizations from 30 countries who are living out Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy and cannot stand aside in the face of injustice.

The Award recognizes outstanding individuals and supports the work of the Laureate on an ongoing basis through strategic litigation, training and capacity building, and advocacy before governments, international organizations, and other institutions.