Hispanic National Bar Association Addresses New York Times Piece on ABA Ratings and Obama Prospects for Judgeships

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the New York Times published a piece on the impact of the American Bar Association (ABA) ratings on the President’s list of candidates for federal judgeships. The article highlights the number of potential judicial nominees designated as “not qualified,” the number of those with this designation belonging to a minority group, and the impact this has on the need to fill judicial vacancies.

“We commend Charlie Savage for opening a conversation on an inscrutable process the ABA relies on to vet candidates. His efforts reveal an important need for a more in-depth conversation about the disproportionately negative impact on minorities,” stated Benny Agosto, Jr., HNBA National President.

The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary evaluates the professional qualifications of all nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States, circuit courts of appeals, district courts (including territorial district courts) and the Court of International Trade. It is tasked with executing a peer-review process to achieve impartial evaluations of the integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament of nominees for the federal judiciary.

“With respect to the impact these evaluations have on the process, the ABA’s political influence in the area of judicial nominations is largely pre-textual; Senators inclined to oppose a nominee point to a suboptimal appraisal, Senators inclined to support ignore it. Still, it is an unfortunate stigma we ought to work through. HNBA is strictly nonpartisan, which extends to our work on judicial nominations. We commend the Obama administration for terrific leadership on the nomination of superior Latino judicial candidates,” stated Robert Raben, Chair of the HNBA Committee on Judicial Endorsements.

Journalists Decide Against the Words “Illegal Immigrant”

Journalists Decide Against the Words “Illegal Immigrant”

The Society of Professional Journalists (“SPJ”) decided recently to urge the profession to cease using the phrases “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” in favor of the term “undocumented.”  At the New Orleans convention where 7,800-member SPJ passed its resolution on a voice vote, SPJ member (and member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists), Rebecca Aguilar argued that the term insulted Latino immigrants who had been undocumented at some point.

SPJ President-Elect Sonny Albarado, projects editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, said that he hopes that the resolution makes a statement about being sensitive to language.  “I hope it shows people that journalists are concerned about being accurate when they refer to people, plus I hope it helps shape the discussion.” Albarado said.

The resolution urges journalists to drop the phrases “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” in part because under the Constitution, which also applies to non-citizens, the accused is presumed innocent and only a court can determine when a person has violated the law.  The resolution also noted that the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the pejorative use of these terms to describe an estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

Ninth Circuit Decision Reinforces Rights of Undocumented Workers

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a long-time advocate for the Latino community, has been a fixture in the Ninth Circuit for over a decade defending undocumented workers’ legal rights. In March of this year, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, Thomas A. Saenz, argued before the 11-judge en banc panel on behalf of the plaintiffs, Comité de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach and the National Day Laborers Organization Network (NDLON), challenging the City of Redondo Beach’s anti-solicitation ordinance. Guided by “well-established principles of First Amendment law”, the Court found the ordinance failed to meet the elements of the Supreme Court’s “time, place and manner test.” The Ninth Circuit, in a 9-2 decision, stood firmly in support of the First Amendment rights of undocumented workers by finding the ordinance a “facially unconstitutional restriction on speech.”

The Redondo Beach ordinance prohibited individuals from soliciting or attempting to solicit employment or business to a motor vehicle occupant while standing on a street or highway. Redondo Beach Municipal Code §3-7.1601(a). As a result, the ability of a day laborer to provide for their family by looking for day labor jobs is completely restricted.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision gives a firm foothold to the speech rights of undocumented workers across the country whose voices are being stifled by similar ordinances. Saenz expressed in a comment on the ruling, “the longstanding principle that the right of free speech belongs to everyone has been significantly bolstered by this decision.” Echoing Saenz’s sentiments, Pablo Alvarado, NDLON’s Executive Director, calls the victory one “achieved by humble people for everyone.” In the constant struggle to define the constitutional rights of undocumented workers, the Hispanic legal community must lead the charge to not allow our brothers and sisters to be taken advantage of.

Prioritization of Immigration Enforcement: An Effective Use of Federal Resources

By Benny Agosto, Jr.

Immigration has become a hotbed of discussion amongst Americans and politicians alike. With more than 10 million undocumented workers in the United States, it’s unrealistic to try and deport such a tremendous number. So, the President has focused his attention to developing an immigration solution that effectively meets the country’s security and economic needs. To do so, the Administration has created a strategy to utilize government resources in a way that puts national security and public safety at the forefront—prioritizing immigration enforcement.

While speaking at the Hispanic National Bar Association Annual Convention in Dallas earlier this month, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, stated the Administration’s position very clearly. The Department of Homeland Security has made the removal of those who have been convicted of a crime in the United States the top priority. Through the direction of the President, the DHS removed 79,000 more convicted criminals in 2010 than in 2008. By directing their attention to target the deportation of criminals who have been convicted of serious crimes, as opposed to those who are low priority cases, enforcement resources are used more effectively.

Currently, the deportation caseload is being reviewed on a case by case basis to identify those that have been convicted of a crime and those that pose a security risk to the nation. Such a process will cover a wide array of individuals, including those brought into the U.S. as small children, military veterans, and even the spouses of active duty military personnel. To determine priority of these cases, the Department of Justice and the DHS will use common sense guidelines and consider a person’s ties and contributions to the community, familial relationships and even military service records.

This approach not only tailors immigration enforcement to where it is needed most, but is a firm step toward Congress and the Administration mending the immigration system.