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FEBRUARY 25, 2003
11:07 AM
CONTACT:  People For the American Way Foundation
Tracy Duckett: (202) 467-4999
What President Bush Won't Say About Opposition to Estrada Nomination
Hispanic Legal and Civil Rights Leaders Overwhelmingly Oppose Confirmation; White House, GOP Senators Sacrifice Credibility in Confirmation Campaign
WASHINGTON - February 26 - President George W. Bush is meeting today with members of the Latino Coalition and others supporting the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. What President Bush will not tell Americans is that, contrary to reports that the Hispanic community is evenly divided over the Estrada nomination, a significant majority of major Hispanic legal, civil rights, and worker rights organizations have joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other national and community leaders in energetically opposing Estrada's confirmation.

There is remarkable hypocrisy and dishonesty demonstrated by those who complain that the filibuster against Estrada's nomination is somehow unprecedented or grounded in bigotry when many of the same people participated in or supported filibusters and less public backroom blockades against a number of President Clinton's well-qualified Hispanic judicial nominees, some of whom never even got a hearing, and some who were prevented from getting a vote for as long as four years.

President Bush will probably not acknowledge that 15 former presidents of the National Hispanic Bar Association recently signed a statement opposing Estrada's nomination. They say Estrada's candidacy falls short in the critical areas of having demonstrated a commitment to the concept of equal opportunity and equal justice under the law and the extent to which he has been involved in, supportive of, and responsive to the issues, needs and concerns of Hispanic Americans.

President Bush will most likely not call attention to the editorial published by United Farm Workers Co-Founder Dolores Huerta decrying the role that Estrada's nomination is playing in the larger effort to shift the federal courts to the right. "To my friends who think this is all about politicians fighting among themselves," she wrote, "I ask you to think what would have happened over the last 40 years if the federal courts were fighting against workers' rights and womens' rights and civil rights. And then think about how quickly that could become the world we are living in."

President Bush will almost certainly not mention that 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, the California branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and LULAC of Montgomery County, Maryland. These organizations and leaders have expressed their opposition to Estrada's troubling record on issues facing the Hispanic community such as discrimination and racial profiling, and his unwillingness to discuss his judicial philosophy regarding constitutional law and civil rights principles that are crucial to the protection of individuals' civil rights.

President Bush will probably remain mum about the fact that Estrada's confirmation is being aggressively championed by far-right organizations that are trying to fill the federal courts with judges who embrace the states' rights legal philosophy championed by the Federalist Society of which Estrada is a member and by Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

We sincerely hope that Bush will not repeat the offensive suggestions by Republican senators and former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray that opposition to Estrada's nomination is anti-Hispanic or motivated by bigotry and a desire to deny job opportunities to Hispanic Americans. The widespread opposition to Estrada's confirmation by so many groups and individuals dedicated to promoting equal opportunity and equality under the law makes it clear that that rhetoric is unfair and untrue.

Many of the administration's allies on the Estrada nomination are conservative-leaning business groups like the Latino Coalition and its affiliated Hispanic Business Roundtable, which have been consistent cheerleaders for the Bush administration's economic policies. The Latino Coalition has accused the Senate of "racial profiling" of Hispanic judicial nominations, but we have seen no evidence that the group, which was founded in 1995, spoke out when the Republican-led Senate blocked several well-qualified Hispanic appeals court nominees from even getting a hearing or vote during the Clinton administration, or denounced GOP senators for stalling the nomination of appeals court nominee Richard Paez for four years.

The lack of credibility for accusations by the White House and Senate Republicans that Estrada is being treated differently than other nominees extends to other areas in which the facts have been made public but Estrada's proponents keep sticking to the same misleading talking points. Administration officials, for example, refuse to acknowledge that there is ample precedent under both Republican and Democratic administrations for the release of internal Justice Department documents to senators evaluating judicial and other high level nominees. Senator Patrick Leahy recently released documentation for a number of examples in which the Senate has requested, and past Justice Departments have provided, similar memoranda written by Justice Department attorneys. The examples he cited included the nominations of Robert Bork to become Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; William Bradford Reynolds, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, to become Associate Attorney General; Benjamin Civiletti, nominated by President Carter to become Attorney General; Stephen Trott, nominated to become a judge in the Ninth Circuit; and then-Justice William Rehnquist, who was nominated by President Reagan to become Chief Justice.


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