WASHINGTON -- The National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic organization, announced yesterday that it will oppose Senate confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas for a Supreme Court seat.
La Raza, which represents 139 local organizations providing services to more than 2 million Hispanics, said it was opposing JudgeThomas because of what it called his "callous disregard" of Hispanics' civil rights during his tenure as chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"Hispanics who suffered employment discrimination had trouble even getting into Clarence Thomas' agency," La Raza President Raul Yzaguirre said in a statement accompanying yesterday's announcement. "Once inside, their cases were likely to be thrown out. . . .
"It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, under Clarence Thomas, the nation's most important civil rights agency was itself guilty of discriminating against the Hispanic community," Mr. Yzaguirre added. "No one with such an egregious record is qualified to serve on the nation's highest court."
Tony Salazar, chairman of La Raza's board of directors, noted that it was "highly unusual" for the organization to take a position against a Supreme Court nominee. He said the group had done so only once beforein its 23-year history -- in 1987, when it opposed Judge Robert H. Bork, whose nomination the Senate rejected.
Mr. Salazar said the decision to oppose Judge Thomas, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was made in a formal poll of the board, which voted 21-2 against him, with three board members not voting.
In opposing Judge Thomas' nomination, La Raza joins three other major Hispanic organizations -- the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia.
La Raza had indicated earlier this month that it would postpone acting until after Judge Thomas testifies at Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, scheduled to begin Sept. 10. The decision of La Raza's board to move earlier came only after "extensive internal debate," a source within the organization said yesterday.