UnidosUS Mourns Passing of Former Representative Esteban Torres

Washington, DC—Tonight UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía released the following statement upon the passing of Esteban Torres—a former Congressman and longtime member of the UnidosUS familia—at the age of 91.

“We are deeply saddened today to learn of the passing of a lifelong champion of the Latino community and a good friend, colleague, and mentor to NCLR and now UnidosUS, former Representative Esteban Torres. When he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, he was a member of the class that doubled Latino representation in Congress. This came after a distinguished career as a high-ranking official at the United Auto Workers and as an appointee in the Jimmy Carter administration, which included key roles at the United Nations and in the White House.

From the moment he took office, he made improving the lives of Hispanics in our country a top priority, especially in his roles on the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs and Small Business committees. His impact was immediate. He played a crucial role in both the passage and later the implementation of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act which gave legal status to more than three million people. He brought his own experience as a farmworker and seeing his father deported during the repatriation of Mexican Americans in the 1930s to ensure that immigrants were treated with fairness, dignity, and compassion.

In the early 1990s, UnidosUS worked closely with Representative Torres to protect workers and enhance investment in border communities during the debate over NAFTA. We see the legacy of his efforts in the creation of the North American Development Bank, which supports cross-border development to this day.

A gifted artist, Torres had a lifelong interest and love for the arts and culture, especially for recognizing the artistic and cultural accomplishments of the Latino community. As a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, he was a force for greater inclusion in our nation’s most important cultural institution and an early advocate for a Latino museum, which will soon be part of the mall in Washington, DC. And even in his retirement, we could count on his support, such as when he served as the first chair of the National Latino Media Council, which helped to bring greater diversity to the major television networks.

UnidosUS also mourns the loss of a seminal figure in our organization’s history. Congressman Torres was there at the very beginning when—as head of the East Los Angeles institution, TELACU—he became one of our first seven Affiliates. He served as a mentor to other emerging community-based organizations in our network and also served with distinction—twice—on our Board of Directors.

His life of public service and many, many accomplishments are a reflection of, and matched by, his character. He was a gracious, kind, dignified, and gentle man for whom belief in civility, love of country, and reaching out to and working with everyone—including those he disagreed with—was not just lip service but who he was at his core. On a personal note, I mourn the loss of a treasured adviser and friend, and someone for whom my husband Mauro Morales was a staff member for many years. Our deepest condolences to his beloved wife, Arcy—his partner and greatest supporter throughout his life—his children, and his extended family.”