Attorney focuses on Latinos' dreams
ABOUT BENNY AGOSTO, JR.
OCCUPATION: Partner with the law firm, Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend and president of the Hispanic National Bar Association
CONNECTION: Spring resident
FAST FACT: Earlier in his life, Agosto mulled a career in microbiology but eventually realized his personality was better suited to a vocation that required more contact with people that practicing law allowed. "I'm more of a people person, more of a caregiver and a helper," he says.
Benny Agosto Jr.'s one-year term as president of the Hispanic National Bar Association draws to a close in August.
In that brief span of time, the Spring resident has met President Obama a handful of times, worked to expand judicial diversity, facilitated immigration reform and helped to nudge into reality the Smithsonian American Latino Museum on the National Mall.
Founded in California in 1972 as the La Raza National Lawyers Association, the stated purpose of the nonprofit, nonpartisan HNBA is to represent the 100,000 Latino attorneys, judges, law professors, legal assistants and paralegals, and law students in the United States and its territories.
That mission has since been widened. HNBA has dubbed 2011-12 the Year of the Advocate, focusing on supporting the Latino legal profession, community and children.
Agosto's tangible involvement with the HNBA may never had happened had it not been for his hardworking parents, both of whom had a sixth-grade education.
"I was a middle child and the first to go to college," says Agosto, who was born in New York City and raised in Puerto Rico. "Never giving up on that dream is hugely important to them (his parents) and me and I installed that in my (four) children."
Fulfilling dreams for others is central to Agosto's life. He walks a legal and cultural tightrope, supporting the deportation of undocumented immigrants who've committed criminal acts but supports pathways that would grant illegal immigrants legal residency as well as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
"We can't deport everyone," says Agosto. "The best thing to do is find a pathway to legalization. That's much different than citizenship."
In the planning stages is a Smithsonian Latino Museum, an idea that was born in the mid-1990s to acknowledge the 50 million Hispanics who live in the United States.
Agosto says he believes the museum is a step closer to becoming reality. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House to designate the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries building on the National Mall as the location of the Smithsonian American Latino Museum. No federal funds would be appropriated toward the museum. The bill would simply authorize the site to allow for private fundraising.
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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