Thomas A. Saenz

Honorary Degrees


Los Angeles​

Thomas A. Saenz is a distinguished civil rights attorney and longtime champion for diversity and social justice. Mr. Saenz is the President and General Counsel for MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund). He has been a tireless advocate for our nation's Latino and immigrant communities and has strived to ensure educational opportunities for all Americans. Mr. Saenz embodies California State University, Los Angeles' mission of engagement, service and the public good.

Mr. Saenz attended public schools in neighborhoods served by the university, and he graduated summa cum laude from Yale University. He earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. Mr. Saenz was a leader in the successful legal challenge to California's 1994 divisive Proposition 187, which sought to deny public benefits to undocumented immigrants but was ruled unconstitutional. Mr. Saenz also served as MALDEF's lead counsel in two court challenges to

California's Proposition 227, an English-only education initiative. He has litigated numerous other civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants' rights, education, employment and voting rights.

Throughout his accomplished career Mr. Saenz has promoted educational success for youth. His early support of Dreamers−immigrants who came to the United States as children−was instrumental for these students, many of whom attend the California State University.

Mr. Saenz has been a recipient of many awards and has earned recognition for his litigation skills and passion for civil rights. He was selected as one of Hispanic Business magazine's "100 Top Influentials." He received the Professional Achievement Award from the Mexican American Bar Foundation, and the National Hispanic Bar Association presented him with the Ohtli Award, which recognized his public service on behalf of Mexican American communities. In recognition of his distinguished career, his contributions to social justice, and his role as an advocate for educational opportunity, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Los Angeles are proud to confer upon Thomas A. Saenz the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.​​​