Civic-minded lawyer fights for the rights of immigrants
Driven to combat racism and injustice,John De León legally empowers immigrants alongside Cesár Chavez’s son, Fernando Chávez
May 17, 1980, was a pivotal moment in US history, and one that set the stage for John De León’s successful career fighting for the rights of immigrants. On that day, four white Miami-Dade police officers that had allegedly killed African-American Arthur McDuffie during a traffic stop, were acquitted of manslaughter by an all-white jury after less than three hours of deliberation. Following the verdict, the black neighborhoods of Overtown and Liberty City witnessed a race riot so severe that Miami was declared a federal disaster area by the government.
“It was the first time I was confronted with the ugliness of racism in this country, and that was an eye-opening experience for a young Latino kid who had grown up in the Anglo community of North Miami,” recalls De León, who attended high school not far from where the riots broke out.