- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

Senate Democrats are banking on the fact that most Latino voters are too busy earning a living to pay attention to judicial politics. Because if they do, most would be appalled by the Democratic leadership's mistreatment of the first Latino nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In May 2001, President Bush nominated Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit. Mr. Estrada is an immigrant success story of whom Latinos indeed, all Americans can be proud. When Mr. Estrada left his native Honduras at age 17, he spoke little English. But in just a few years later, he graduated with honors from two Ivy League institutions Columbia College and Harvard Law School
A former deputy solicitor general of the United States and now a partner in the prestigious Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm, Mr. Estrada has argued 15 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Even the American Bar Association has given him its highest rating.
Clearly, Mr. Estrada isn't just one of the best Latino lawyers in the country he is one of the best lawyers in the country. Period.
Mr. Estrada is unquestionably qualified for the post. But Democrats like their minorities dumb and malleable, and Mr. Estrada clearly fails this test. So for almost two years, Senate Democrats have blocked his confirmation. Although a fillibuster has never before been used to scuttle an appellate-court nomination, Democrats are so determined to stop Mr. Estrada that they are willing to resort to this drastic measure.
In explaining their unprecedented opposition to the nomination, Senate Democrats have attempted to paint Mr. Estrada as Hispanic "in name only." Such attacks on Mr. Estrada's ethnic authenticity have exposed a deep hypocrisy, rooted in racism, on the question of diversity.
Contrary to the assumptions of the Democratic leadership, the Latino community is truly diverse we come in all colors, religions, and, yes, political inclinations. Yet the Democratic leadership has decided that the only "genuine" Latinos are those they can control. Anyone else is simply unacceptable, a renegade to be extirpated as not truly "Hispanic."
Senate Democrats think they can get away with these guerrilla tactics because, as a Honduran immigrant, Mr. Estrada lacks a natural constituency among Hispanic special-interest groups, most of which are controlled by Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans. The Democratic leadership seeks political cover for its despicable actions from these self-appointed leaders of the Hispanic community. But Hispanics are in no sense represented by non-membership organizations such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) the true constituencies of these purveyors of victimization are the foundations and donors who bankroll them.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, has said that being Hispanic should not insulate a judicial nominee from scrutiny. Fair enough. But when searching inquiry into a candidate's public record fails to reveal any legitimate cause for concern, continued opposition to the nomination begins to reek of racism.
The effort to stigmatize as unfit for public office an eminently well-qualified Latino simply because he has failed to pledge allegiance to the liberal orthodoxy is an affront to the diverse Latino community of this nation. It promises to do lasting damage to the American polity and ultimately undermine the Democratic Party's efforts to maintain a base in the Hispanic community.
Hispanic Americans seek nothing less than full integration into the American system, with prominence in both major political parties. Miguel Estrada embodies these aspirations, and his nomination to one of the most prestigious courts in the land is a source of pride for Latinos across the country.
That is why non-partisan Hispanic organizations like the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (the nation's oldest and largest Latino membership organization) support the nomination. And that is why Democrats may some day suffer electoral consequences for the way they have treated Miguel Estrada.

Jennifer Braceras, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, teaches a course on civil rights at Suffolk Law School in Boston, Mass.


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