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Yesterday, Thursday, June 12th, 2014, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) submitted the following statement into the Congressional Record in honor of Tomas Villanueva, an advocate for farmworker rights who passed away last week.   

“ Mr. President, I would like to pay tribute to an incredible advocate for farmworker rights from the State of Washington, Tomas Villanueva.

“Tomas's family immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was 14 years old.

“They settled in Toppenish in 1958, where Tomas was able to earn his GED, allowing him the opportunity to enroll in Yakima Valley College.

“After being inspired by Caeser Chavez's United Farmworkers moment, Tomas and classmate Lupe Gamboa traveled to California in 1967 to learn more about organizing. 

“Upon their return to the Yakima Valley, Tomas and Lupe formed the United Farm Worker Cooperative, one of the first activist Chicano organizations in Washington state.

“Out of Tomas's activism came the Yakima Valley Farmworker's Clinic and the United Farmworkers Service Center.

“After a brief break to focus on a family business, Tomas became the first president of the United Farmworkers of Washington State. 

“Mr. President, Tomas dedicated his life to improving working conditions and healthcare standards for farmworkers, and I could always rely on Tomas's wisdom, guidance, and advocacy on the important issues of justice, human rights, and comprehensive immigration reform. 

“Tomas was gifted in his ability to translate the challenging issues farmworkers face to community leaders and politicians, inspiring their support and work on behalf of farmworker rights.

“While Tomas was informed and passionate, he was also pragmatic about how we as a state-- and as a nation-- can do a better job of caring and advocating for farmworkers and their families. 

“He will be so missed, but his legacy will live on.

“Mr. President, I would like to ask my colleagues to join me in honoring the memory of Tomas Villanueva, during this difficult time my thoughts are with his friends, family, and all who he inspired.”