A Dishonorable Smear Campaign Against Democratic Senators

Democratic senators have rightly resisted efforts – four to date – to force a final vote on Estrada’s confirmation until they have more information with which to evaluate troubling aspects of his record and his approach to important legal issues. Rather than provide such information, the White House and its political allies have launched a remarkably dishonest and dishonorable smear campaign against a number of Democratic senators, alleging that they are anti-Hispanic or that they want to prevent Hispanic Americans from getting good jobs. These include virulent television and radio advertisements in English and Spanish that groups close to the White House are running in a number of states.

A group led by former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray has run a TV ad that suggests that opposition to Estrada’s confirmation reflects bigotry and discrimination, and insinuates that Estrada opponents that don’t want Hispanics to get jobs. Former President George H.W. Bush has recently helped Gray’s group raise $250,000 for what appears to be a barely concealed campaign to defeat a number of Senate Democrats in next year’s elections. The Latino Coalition, a business oriented group that has acted as a cheerleader for Bush administration economic proposals, has produced Spanish language ads accusing Sens. Tom Daschle and Mary Landrieu of finding excuses to oppose Estrada because they want to discriminate against Hispanics.

The vitriolic nature of many of Estrada’s supporters has even moved one group supporting his confirmation, the League of United Latin American Citizens, to call on Estrada supporters to stop making the “anti-Hispanic” charges.

These charges are ludicrous given the intense opposition to Estrada’s confirmation from a majority of leading national and grassroots Latino legal, civil rights, and workers’ rights organizations. In addition to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), groups opposing Estrada’s confirmation include United Farm Workers of America, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, La Raza Lawyers Association of California, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, William C. Velasquez Institute, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste/ Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), National Farm Worker Ministry, The Farmworker Association of Florida, and the California branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

In addition, Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers, and Mario Obledo, former national president of LULAC, have come out against the Estrada nomination, as well as 15 past presidents of the Hispanic Bar Association.

Hispanic opposition to Estrada’s confirmation has grown in part because he has dismissed concerns about the continuing effects of discrimination and has demonstrated little concern for the impact of racial profiling on Latinos and other people of color, and in part because he has refused to answer crucial questions about his approach to the Constitution. That obstructionism is especially troubling in the context of right-wing legal activists’ push to abolish affirmative action and to cement a states’ rights approach to the Constitution – championed by Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – that is already undermining the federal government’s ability to protect individuals’ rights.

Unmentioned by Republican senators and their allies like the Latino Coalition is Republicans' blocking of Hispanic Circuit Court nominees Jorge Rangel, Enrique Moreno and Christine Arguello, who were prevented from getting a hearing or a vote, and stalling of others, like Richard Paez, for four years.

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