MALDEF Won't Be Running Civil Rights After All

By Mark Krikorian on March 16, 2009

I'd alluded earlier to reports that Thomas Saenz, MALDEF's former top attorney, had been tapped to head the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. Apparently, that was true, and he'd accepted the job, but then the White House threw him under the bus (it's getting crowded down there) "because of Tom’s work on immigration rights," in the words of LA County supervisor Gloria Molina. Another good sign! Instead, the administration has nominated Maryland labor secretary Tom Perez, who had earlier been rumored to be the pick for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. While the White House may have figured Perez will be easier to confirm, he doesn't actually seem any better on immigration; after all, he's former president of the board of Casa de Maryland, the state's premier pro-illegal-immigration advocacy group.

UPDATE: The White House decision to drop Saenz like a hot potato isn't sitting well with some of the pro-amnesty folks. Janet Murguia, president of La Raza, had this to say:

"This action may lead some to question whether the White House is ready to fulfill its promise on immigration reform. Along with the nomination of Tom Perez as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the Latino community will be looking for further reassurance that this is not the case. Nonetheless, the administration missed an opportunity to bring the debate back to the merits of the law, rather than succumb to the shrill voices of fear."

And pro-amnesty law professor Kevin Johnson wrote on his blog:

"It appears that Saenz's immigration work for MALDEF, including his successful litigation halting the implementation of California's Proposition 187, proved to be "too controversial" for his nomination to go forward. Given that the Obama administration apparently caved on this nomination, one wonders whether it will have the backbone to press on immigration reform. One also has to wonder with MALDEF, unlike the NAACP, has somehow become radioactive in national politics because it fights for the civil rights of immigrants."