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Opiniones Latinas

Why Hispanic Caucus Rejects Estrada


November 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Opiniones Latinas. All rights reserved. 

Hispanics should stop respecting each other if they want to get ahead. At least that's what the Congressional Hispanic Caucus would have us believe.

How else to interpret the all-Democrat caucus' opposition to Miguel Estrada, a brilliant Hispanic lawyer, sitting on the D.C. Circuit Court? How else to interpret the caucus' acceptance of the racist comments of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the senate committee that rules on judicial nominees?

Through action and inaction, the caucus has proven that it is no longer interested in, or capable of, representing the hopes of Latinos; instead it plays racial politics to further the Democrat agenda.

This wouldn't be so bad if the Democrats' agenda coincided with the Latino's. In countless surveys, Latinos say that they want school choice, Social Security reform, healthcare options and entrepreneurial opportunity -- but good luck finding any of those in the Democrat Party platform.

Estrada's rejection is only the most recent example of the caucus' placing Democrat Party loyalty over Latino solidarity.

In its own words, the caucus seeks to ''address the under-representation of Hispanics in the federal judiciary by promoting the nomination and confirmation of qualified judicial nominees.'' In its actions, however, the caucus not only provided cover for the assault on Estrada but also ignored its own party's racist invective.

The Honduran-born Estrada immigrated to the United States with his family as a teenager. He quickly learned English, graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University, and received his law degree, again with honors, from Harvard Law School, where he edited the Harvard Law Review.

Estrada clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and was appointed by President Clinton to the Justice Department as an assistant to the solicitor general. Estrada has argued 15 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning most of them, and the American Bar Association rates him a unanimous ''well qualified,'' the legal profession's ``gold standard.''

Who would argue that Estrada does not deserve to sit on the D.C. Circuit Court? Enter the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Its mission was to provide ''cover'' for the Democrats' efforts to derail this deserving candidate's nomination.

With the expected retirement of at least one Supreme Court justice during President Bush's first term, Democrats are understandably worried that a Republican president would appoint the first Hispanic justice in our lifetime and ruin the Democrats' image as the sole provider of minority advancement. Democrats decided that Estrada must not succeed, and the caucus did as it was told. That these partisans should work to stymie the president's efforts is no surprise; that they should undermine the efforts of their own people is shocking.

During Estrada's hearing, Leahy responded to the nominees' description of his family's middle-class roots by saying that Estrada ''did not exactly share in the experiences of most Latinos.'' Well, perhaps not until that moment. But immediately upon hearing Leahy's words, Estrada joined the millions of Hispanics who are denied respect because of liberal condescension and reduced expectations.

And what was the caucus' response to this outrage? Silence.

Bush will renominate Estrada next year. As Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, stated, the Hispanic Democrats ``sold out the aspirations of their people just to sit around schmoozing with the power elite.''

Clearly the caucus considers Latinos' dreams inferior to the Democrat Party's election schemes.

Raúl Damas is operations director of Opiniones Latinas, a public-opinion research firm, in Alexandria, Va.

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