September 30, 2019
September 2019: José Caldera
José Caldera (he/him)
Member, ACS Missouri Lawyer Chapter (Central Missouri Division) Board of Directors
I've always been a little naive, and I don't think I want that to change.
My parents migrated from Central America in 1982. Like so many migrants, they were casualties of American interventionism. In Nicaragua, the brutal Sandinista regime ruled with an iron fist. Democracy was a forbidden word, and equality was a hollow propaganda tool used to steal lands and money. The Contras were even worse. With their brutal warlord tactics, they decimated Nicaragua and destroyed thousands of families. We lost dozens of relatives and friends to brutal conflicts. In 1982, the conflicts reached my parents’ front door and they were faced with choosing between conscription, migration, or death.
My parents refused to raise us in that oppressive environment, so they looked north to the world’s beacon of hope, America. They knew what the Reagan administration did to exacerbate the conflict that pushed them out of their homes, but that didn't change their view of America. America is bigger than any one person; it is an idea that we as a people can and must fight for. They firmly believed that anyone can become an American, and that once here, it is on each of us to push this country forward. Here, we fight for what is right even when we face insurmountable odds. Those are the values I was taught, and that is what I fight for today.
I have spent my entire career in the public sector fighting for the American dream. I have served people from all walks of life, and at every stage, I have fought for those who cannot fight for themselves. I am currently a municipal attorney who focuses on land use and development. Most wouldn't expect this to be a position where a progressive attorney can have much impact, but my job focuses on issues that affect peoples’ everyday lives. It is just as important to have reliable transportation in underserved areas as it is to have an affordable way to go to college. Where sidewalks are built matters just as much as reforming financial institutions. Protecting clean waterways can impact a family’s life as much as immigration reform can. I work hard to view everything I do through a social equity lens because in my opinion, that is what our founding ideals demand, and it's how I help to build a more perfect union.
I joined the University of Missouri-Columbia ACS Chapter on literally my first day of law school. This organization has exposed me to a large community of progressive attorneys who deeply care about the rule of law and its power to make change. ACS recognizes that the Constitution shows us the path to a more perfect union and pushes our legal community to lead the way. ACS shares and fights for my values, and that is why I am a proud member of ACS today.