LULAC Says House OK Of The Vanessa Act Is A First Step And The Brandon Act Is Also Vital To Save Our Servicemembers
Nation’s Largest and Oldest Latino Civil Rights Organization Calls The Final Vanessa Guillen Measure a Partial Victory with More Needed
Washington, DC – The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed its final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. The measure contains the revised Vanessa Act calling for military justice reform prosecuting sexual crimes committed against servicemembers. Passage of the compromise measure marks an essential milestone in a protracted civil rights battle LULAC was asked to undertake by the family of Ft. Hood Army soldier Vanessa Guillen after she disappeared in April 2020. Her remains were found in June 2020, several miles from the base, and investigators concluded that Guillen was murdered by a fellow servicemember who then disposed of her body.
Domingo Garcia - LULAC National President
“We are pleased for the Guillen family members that they may finally have a measure of justice on behalf of their daughter and sister. The Army failed to protect this 20-year-old soldier who had voiced concerns about sexual harassment and was in fear of her safety. Also, Ft. Hood's command refused to take her disappearance seriously until LULAC and the community staged vigils outside the base gate. We pushed for weeks to get military investigators to act. It wasn't until the I Am Vanessa campaign went viral worldwide that the Army was forced to take the matter seriously. LULAC went to the Pentagon and met with the Secretary of the Army and leaders in Congress.
The compromise version that has been negotiated does achieve some significant concessions, including unprecedented non-military oversight of the investigation and judicial process in cases like Vanessa's. However, there are still gaps that must be addressed. LULAC will continue to work with Congressional leaders like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who warn that some elements in the military are more concerned about their power than protecting our servicemembers. Also, we will continue our vigorous fight for passage of the Brandon Act as part of the Save Our Servicemembers work still ahead. You cannot protect our men and women in uniform if they cannot also access immediate mental health resources without fear of retaliation, as did Vanessa Guillen and Brandon Caserta. This is our pledge to the millions whose loved ones are still in harm’s way at the hands of fellow servicemembers and toxic military commands that persist in their denial of a problem in the ranks.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/