- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

White House counsel Alberto Gonzales’ pending nomination as attorney general, challenged by a coalition of liberal groups, has received widespread support among several Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organizations.

“We previously criticized the Bush administration for not having an Hispanic in the Cabinet since the departure of former HUD Secretary, now Senator-elect, Mel Martinez,” said the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the country.

“We are pleased that one of the first acts since the president’s reelection both rectifies that situation and marks an historic milestone for the Latino community,” the NCLR statement said.

If confirmed, Mr. Gonzales would be the first Hispanic to serve as attorney general. He formerly was on the board of directors of one of NCLR’s oldest affiliates, the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA) in Houston.

A spokesman for Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, who will take over as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee next month, said confirmation hearings are tentatively scheduled for the first week in January.

The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has formally endorsed the nomination, commending Mr. Bush for appointing Mr. Gonzales “to this highly visible and influential position.” The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators called the nomination “a significant indication of the growing political influence of the Latino community in the United States.”

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said it was “encouraged: by the nomination, adding in a statement it was “profoundly concerned about all aspects of the attorney general’s responsibilities, not only its enforcement and prosecutorial duties, but also important due-process questions, including right to counsel.”

Other Hispanic groups that have endorsed Mr. Gonzales include:

• The Hispanic National Bar Association, which expressed confidence in Mr. Gonzales’ “ability to do an excellent job in this important position on behalf of all Americans.” The association, which represents 25,000 Hispanic lawyers, judges, law professors and law students nationwide, said it was “pleased” Mr. Gonzales would be the first Hispanic attorney general “and we are sure he will not be the last.”

• The National Board of Directors of MANA, which called on the Senate to “quickly confirm” the nomination after reviewing Mr. Gonzales’ “long and distinguished legal career.” MANA is one of the oldest and largest Latina grass-roots advocacy groups in the United States.

• The National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP), which said there was “no one more qualified to fill the post of U.S. attorney general,” saying he had “become a role model for the Latino community and a beacon of hope for the future of the country.” With 200 member and affiliated publications with a combined circulation of 10 million, NAHP publications reach 50 percent of nation’s Hispanic households in 55 U.S. markets every week.

Mr. Gonzales’ confirmation, which seemed assured in November, has been challenged in recent weeks by a host of liberal groups that have questioned his role as White House counsel in suspected abuses of U.S. military detainees. More than two dozen civil rights and human rights groups have asked the committee to scrutinize Mr. Gonzales’ “record, his positions and his future plans for the Justice Department.”

Their concern has focused on a January 2002 legal opinion written by the White House counsel’s office suggesting Mr. Bush was not restricted by prohibitions on torture of prisoners as defined by U.S. law and international treaties owing to his “complete authority over the conduct of war.”

Mr. Gonzales was born Aug. 4, 1955, in San Antonio, the second of eight children of Pablo and Maria Gonzales, migrants from Mexico. His father, who died in 1982, was a construction worker. Mr. Gonzales graduated from Rice University with a degree in political science in 1979, and earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1982.

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