WASHINGTON -- Two major Hispanic organizations, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia, announced yesterday that they will oppose Senate confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court justice.
Nevertheless, some leaders acknowledged that for the nation's 23 million Hispanics, there were signs of a dilemma in the issue of whether Judge Thomas should be seated.
At a joint news conference of the defense fund and the bar association, Mario Moreno, the fund's regional counsel in Washington, said that the organization could not "in good conscience" support a nominee who would "severely undermine" civil rights, "particularly in areas of importance to Hispanics."
Maria Holleran-Rivera, president of the bar association, said that Judge Thomas, in his previous post as chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, had "failed to marshal the enforcement tools available to his agency, to the detriment of all minorities."
But signs of a dilemma emerged from Mr. Moreno's response to a question involving abortion, and later in the day, when Raul Yzaguirre, president of the foremost Hispanic organization, the National Council of La Raza, discussed his organization's role in the campaign against Judge Thomas.
Mr. Moreno was asked whether a "sizable portion" of the nation's Hispanics who were conservative, particularly on the issue of abortion, would "tend to agree" with many of the views of Judge Thomas, a black conservative. "Oh, certainly," he replied, while acknowledging that the fund is a "pro-choice organization."
"In this announcement, we're not saying that we represent the Hispanic community," he said. "We represent the interests of the Hispanic community."
Meanwhile, La Raza, an umbrella association of groups representing about 2 million Latinos, is considering postponing / /TC decision on Judge Thomas until the Senate Judiciary Committee begins its hearings Sept. 10.
Although La Raza sharply criticized Judge Thomas in a report last month, describing his EEOC tenure as "very poor," a source within the organization said yesterday that Mr. Yzaguirre would recommend the postponement to its board of directors and that there was a "very strong possibility" the board would accept.
Mr. Yzaguirre said in an interview that La Raza maintained a "traditional reluctance" about taking positions on Senate confirmations for judicial posts.
Mr. Yzaguirre recalled that President Bush reportedly had been considering several Hispanic jurists for the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Justice Thurgood Marshall's retirement.
"The last thing we want, however, is to give the perception of wanting an Hispanic on the Supreme Court at the expense of Clarence Thomas," he said.