The Inner-City Advocates (InCA) was organized by Judge Albert A. Pena, Jr. in the late 1990’s and sponsored by the Mexican American Unity Council as a mechanism to politicize those who were invited to participate. While Judge Pena’s focus was Raza-based systematic parity, the body of the organization set the agenda based on their willingness to coalesce. First coordinated by Mike Tapia, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice Dept., Univ. of Texas at San Antonio), then by Roy Lopez (Community Development Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas), Pena appointed Gabriel Quintero Velasquez as InCA’s first Director in 1998. The coalition included participation from activists and organizations such as: Common Cause, LULAC, MALDEF, SWVREP, NCLR, Coordinadora 2000/96, MEChA, AIM, the Fire Fighters Association, the Brown Berets, Mujeres Hispanas por Mejor Justicia (MHPMJ), Southwest Institute on Poverty and Civil Rights, COPS/Metro, Fighting Back, American Indians of Texas (AIT), the Taxi Drivers Union and many others. In its formative years, InCA coalesced around local and national issues such as immigration reform, fluoride, naming a street for Cesar Chavez, the lack of Latinos on broadcast television, and statewide objectives that advance the cause of the Mexican-American community, such as workforce discrimination in El Cenizo, Texas and the HOPE VI demolition of the Victory Courts in San Antonio, Texas providing technical assistance to the Public Housing Resident Council.
InCA evolved, individual citizens became a central focus point of the coalition where the organization realized a higher capacity to achieve accountability against system abuse at the family or single person level; winning small wars with a big army. For issues pertinent to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the coalition mobilized Peter Vallecillo. To organize students: MEChA was represented by Carlos Hernandez and Arlene Esparza. For Labor issues: Sam Tabet Alvarado or Jaime P. Martinez (Deceased 2017); immigration mobilizations: Gabriel Q. Velasquez; Jerry Cortez or Roberto Anguiano (Deceased 2005) for issues related to firefighters and unions. Rosa Rosales and her son Gabriel employed LULAC’S defense mechanism when required. MALDEF regularly contributed technical assistance regarding InCA legal protocols. Dr. C.P. Garcia (Deceased 2016) represented the G.I. Forum. Hardcore activism usually included the participation of former Guardian Angels leader Grace Hernandez. Elected officials, including State Representatives and Congressmen, frequented coalition meetings, as did issue-researching political candidates. The accomplishments of the Inner-City Advocates are well documented in the press, particularly the San Antonio Express-News.
In 2006 Judge Pena died at the age of 88 having suffered from Parkinson’s disease. In the period following the Mexican American Unity Council’s sponsorship (between 2005 to 2017), InCA focused on organizing and mobilizing immigration activist, commencing in response to Republican James Sensenbrenner’s Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (considered the domino effect which led to the anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent today in the United States). Since 2006, the Inner-City Advocates title includes “…of Judge Albert A. Pena, Jr.”, sponsoring and organizing most rallies and marches dedicated to achieving comprehensive immigration legislation, including mobilizing the 2007 immigration march in San Antonio’s history yielding an estimated 30,000 marchers.
2018 marks a new era for the Inner-City Advocates of Judge Albert A. Pena, Jr. With a new sponsor, Avenida Guadalupe Association, today’s organizational focus, while remaining steadfast in the immigration fight, establishes an civil-rights educational academy that will engage a new generation in understanding the knowledge and protocols necessary to defend oneself and one’s family properly.