The heated political battle over the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is marked by frequently repeated assertions that are demonstrably untrue, and by increasingly harsh criticism of individuals and groups opposing Estrada’s confirmation and supporting use of the filibuster.
At the same time Republican Senators and other Bush administration allies charge that opponents of Estrada’s confirmation to the federal appeals courts are anti-Hispanic, a growing number of national and grassroots Latino organizations dedicated to championing civil rights and worker rights are energetically opposing Estrada’s confirmation. Indeed, a significant majority of Latino organizations who have been working to assure equal opportunity for all Americans over the past several decades have come out against the Estrada nomination.
This 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 or laws that have a disproportionate impact on minority groups, 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 for a states’ rights approach to the Constitution – championed by Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – that is undermining the federal government’s ability to protect individuals’ rights. Estrada is a member of the Federalist Society, which is at the forefront of efforts to move the nation’s courts to the right.
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). Also, Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers, and Mario Obledo, former national president of LULAC, have come out against the Estrada nomination.
These organizations and individuals are joined by the Congressional Black Caucus and a broad spectrum of national public interest organizations, including People For the American Way, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Alliance for Justice and many other civil rights, labor, reproductive rights, and environmental groups.
In spite of this tremendous opposition within the Hispanic community, Republican senators and other activists have charged that opposition to Estrada’s confirmation is anti-Hispanic. A group led by former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray is running a TV ad that suggests that opposition to Estrada’s confirmation reflects bigotry and discrimination, and insinuates that it is led by groups that don’t want Hispanics to get jobs. That is particularly offensive given how many groups committed to equal opportunity are opposing Estrada precisely because they believe his judicial philosophy would undermine the federal government’s ability to enforce civil rights protections. Unmentioned by Republican senators, of course, is their successful 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.