University president, labor alliance leader among Faldef’s Trailblazer awardees

Apala President Johanna Puno Hester

Apala President Johanna Puno Hester

In celebration of its fifth anniversary, the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (Faldef) announced the winners for its first Defend, Serve, Educate (DSE) Trailblazer Awardees.

Faldef provides pro bono legal services to members of the Filipino American community. Since its founding in 2009, the group has gone on to handle and/or collaborate on cases involving domestic violence, immigration detention and deportation, employment class action suits, and human/labor trafficking cases.

In a press statement, the following are announced as winners:

Organization: The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the country’s premier civil and human rights law firm. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF was launched at a time when the nation’s aspirations for equality and due process of law were stifled by widespread state-sponsored racial inequality. In 2009, members of the Filipino American community in New York sought guidance from LDF on the case of the “Sentosa nurses,” Filipino nurses who were victims of illegal employment practices. Inspired by the commitment, magnanimity, and support shown by LDF on the plight of the Sentosa nurses, as well as LDF’s well-documented history and impact in addressing the needs of the African American community, it was from this seed that Faldef came to its beginnings.

Individual: Sanford A. Rubenstein, Esq., the famed civil rights lawyer and advocate for victims’ rights over the past 40 years, has passionately pursued justice for average people victimized by negligence or abuse on the part of business and government while fighting for social change. His landmark victories against the city of NY, NYPD and other agencies is only topped by his advocacy here in the United States and abroad.


Organization: Texas Regional Public Defenders Office for Capital Crimes (RPDO) has consistently lived up to its mission of “providing high quality, cost-effective legal services in an ethical, professional, and competent manner” for indigents charged with the commission of capital offenses as more than amply demonstrated by RPDO’s handling of the case of Filipino American Gabriel Hall.

Individual: Johanna Puno Hester, the event’s featured speaker, is the national president of Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the first Filipino American to ever hold the position. She has devoted her life to the advocacy for the advancement of civil rights, and has dedicated herself to Apala’s continuing efforts and initiatives to engage the various Asian-American communities nationwide in advancing worker, immigrant and civil rights, especially in the area of voter education and registration.


Organization : Through education, policy development, leadership, professional representation and workplace advocacy, the New Jersey State Nurses Association (NJSNA), promotes, advances and advocates for the profession of nursing. NJSNA’s exemplary work reflects FALDEF’s mission to empower the community through education. Their work is a significant contribution to the education of the public on social and political issues that are highly relevant to minority immigrant communities.

Individual: A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D. is the 20th President of the Seton Hall University. Esteban exemplifies a servant leader whose intellectual gifts focused on minority immigrant communities, particularly taking leadership in making higher education be affordable for capable members of minority immigrant community. His advocacy in his field is a living evidence of FALDEF’s mission to empower the community through education.

The awardees will be honored at Faldef’s first DSE Gala and Awards Night on Saturday, October 26 from 6:30 p.m. at Double Tree by Hilton (formerly Sheraton Newark Airport) located at 128 Frontage Road in Newark, New Jersey. The keynote address will be delivered by Ms. Sherrilyn A. Ifill, a long-time member of the Legal Defense and Education (LDF) family, and is the seventh president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

To RSVP please call 212-221-1888 or email

Seton Hall University President Gabriel Esteban

Seton Hall University President Gabriel Esteban

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