WASHINGTON, DC House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (NJ), the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congress and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Standing Committee on Nominations, CHC Chair Grace Napolitano (CA), and CHC Civil Rights Task Force Chair Charlie Gonzalez (TX) today sent letters to Senators Harry Reid (NV), Patrick Leahy (VT), Arlen Specter (PA) and Bill Frist (TN) to inform the Senate leaders that the CHC has not endorsed Alberto Gonzales, breaking with major national Latino organizations. Following is a sample letter:
January 26, 2005
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
Dear Democratic Leader,
As the Senate considers the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be the next Attorney General of the United States, we, on behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), wish to inform you that the CHC has not endorsed Mr. Gonzales.
Since its inception almost three decades ago, the CHC has served to advance the interests of the Hispanic community, which includes promoting the advancement of Latinos into high levels of public office. We have taken this responsibility seriously, and have accordingly developed a process to evaluate candidates for positions in the executive branch of the federal government. Such a process is critical to determining which candidates seek to hold office to serve the public interest rather than to promote their own personal interest. Our process has enabled us to endorse many exceptional Hispanic candidates. During the past four years, the CHC has proudly endorsed many judicial and executive branch nominees selected by President George W. Bush.
One simple step in our process is a meeting with the nominee. Upon hearing of Mr. Gonzales’ nomination for Attorney General, we invited him to meet with the CHC to provide him with the opportunity to meet our Members, discuss issues important to the Latino community, and to seek our endorsement. We were informed that he wanted our support and for the past two months, we made every attempt to accommodate his schedule. However, Mr. Gonzales ultimately chose not to avail himself of the courtesies we extended to him. We were last advised that Mr. Gonzales was simply too occupied with responding to written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee and that we would instead have to wait to until after he was confirmed as Attorney General before being granted a meeting.
Let us be clear, our concern is not about whether the CHC is granted a meeting it is about Mr. Gonzales’ unwillingness to discuss important issues facing the Latino community. His answers to these questions would give our community the information needed to form an informed opinion of his nomination. With so little time left before a Senate vote on Mr. Gonzales’ nomination, the Latino community continues to lack clear information about how the nominee, as Attorney General, would influence policies on such important topics as the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, protections for persons with limited English proficiency, due process rights of immigrants, and the role of local police in enforcing federal immigration laws.
We are disappointed and surprised that Mr. Gonzales has refused to meet with the CHC during the confirmation process. Much has been said about the historic nature of Mr. Gonzales’ nomination, as the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. Attorney General. However, the historic nature of this nomination is rendered meaningless for the Hispanic community when the nominee declines an opportunity to meet with the group of Hispanic Members of Congress who have worked for so many years to open the doors of opportunity to fellow Hispanics. If he is not willing to meet with the CHC, how responsive can we expect him to be to the needs of the Hispanic community?
We provide you this information as the reason for our lack of endorsement of Mr. Gonzales.