Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Latino Groups Issue Statements Following Controversial DOJ Appointment

As reported yesterday, Latino leaders were concerned that the passing over of Tom Saenz, a former MALDEF attorney, for a key DOJ position signaled the Obama’s administration’s reluctance to tackle the immigration issue.  Late yesterday, MALDEF and NCLR issued the following statements regarding this issue.

Today, MALDEF Chairman of the Board Patricia A. Madrid issued the following statement in reference to Thomas A. Saenz and the U.S. Department of Justice:

Recently, MALDEF’s record of protecting the civil and constitutional rights of Latinos has come under attack by extremists.  We reject these attacks and call upon elected officials of both parties, community and opinion leaders – our partners for justice over the past 40 years – to stand with us against a litany of demonizing and distorting the records of achievement of Latino leaders and organizations.

The Constitution protects all persons – not all “white persons”; not all “citizens”; not all “natives”; and not all “legal residents.”  The same rhetoric from the same extremists that kept the Congress from enacting responsible immigration reform has been unleashed unfairly and inaccurately against Thomas A. Saenz, a respected lawyer and advocate who has devoted his career to the advancement of the Latino community.  In the 1960’s, Thurgood Marshall, Jr. underwent and withstood similarly vicious attacks and worse as he moved from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to exemplary government service as Solicitor General and Supreme Court Justice.  The same resolve against injustice is vital now especially when Latinos are facing dramatic and violent hate crimes including murder.

The battle for equality and justice is not over and MALDEF will continue to lead this fight.

In addition, NCLR President Janet Murguia said,”Thomas Saenz was a great choice to oversee a department tasked with enforcing federal statutes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, and national origin. He follows the law meticulously and is one of the best litigators our country has. He has dedicated his entire career to the fight for justice, equal opportunity, and dignity for those who have no voice.”

“We are concerned that his name may have been pulled from consideration over his ‘position on immigration’ and the signal that it sends to young lawyers weighing careers in upholding the nation’s civil rights laws. Mr. Saenz has successfully litigated cases based on the merits of immigration law and has done so with integrity and professionalism. Where he stands on an issue is not as significant as his understanding of the law and his ability to argue the facts.”

“I am confident that at his confirmation hearing Mr. Saenz would have been able to address any questions related to his litigation work on immigration based on the facts of the cases he argued and the law. Unfortunately he will not be given that opportunity,” continued Murguía.

“This action may lead some to question whether the White House is ready to fulfill its promise on immigration reform. Along with the nomination of Tom Perez as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the Latino community will be looking for further reassurance that this is not the case. Nonetheless, the administration missed an opportunity to bring the debate back to the merits of the law, rather than succumb to the shrill voices of fear,” concluded Murguía.