Objection Based On Principles
Response to an open letter by Fernando Oaxaca regarding Miguel Estrada
Rodolfo F. Acu?a, Ph.D.
Published on LatinoLA: September 13, 2002
It is nice hearing from you (http://latinola.com/story.php?story=464). Yes, I am still opposed to Miguel Estrada, and I would oppose him if he were Mexican or a pocho such as me. Again, if you had followed my career, I have been very involved in promoting justice for Central Americans, and condemning our governments intervention there. I criticized Chicano elected officials for not criticizing the LAPD during the Ramparts scandal because I believed and believe that they were mute because the victims were largely Salvadorans. My objection to Estrada is based on certain principles, which I want protected.
I personally would like to have a Latino judge safeguard and protect the civil liberties of Latinos and other poor folk. I am concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor. I am concerned that in a ten-year period the Justice Department only prosecuted 187 corporate crooks, sending only eighty-seven to jail. Corporate malfeasance has cost thousands of workers their jobs, sucked $630 billion out of corporate pension plans, and cost shareholders $4 trillion. I am concerned about medical care and the rising costs of medical care and the lack of it for the poor. I am concerned about immigrant rights, affirmative action and the inequality of education. Given the lack of a public record and Miguel Estrada's involvement with the Federalist Society, I fear that Estrada will not protect those interests. Indeed, the Federalist Society and the network of right-wing think tanks and foundations are the source of Propositions 187, 209 and 227.
You state that I believe Estrada cannot "represent poor downtrodden Chicanos like you and me because he is from Honduras and his family committed the cardinal sin of being successful." First, the fact that he is Honduran has nothing to do with the argument. Linda Chavez is a 'manita and I have been more critical of her. But, for those who claim that I should not criticize Estrada because he is Central American, I would implore them to be intellectually honest and criticize the genocide of some 200,000 Guatemalans and the wipe-out of some 450 Guatemalan Indian villages by CIA-sponsored death squads. The courts have not checked the growing power the executive and foreign intervention has created, a constitutional crisis that I do not believe that Estrada will help resolve.
On the issue of the downtrodden: I feel very strongly about community. As an old man, I believe that I can be more candid about myself. In my youth I often toyed with the idea of running for office and came to the conclusion that my candidacy would be opportunistic. I would have had to move into the Eastside, I had not attended a barrio high school (went to Loyola High), and I was lighter than most Mexicans. My mother and father were immigrants who had a first grade and sixth grade education respectively. But, my father was a successful tailor, giving me advantages that others did not have. So, I strongly believed in the notion of an organic leader and assumed the role of a teacher.
Over the years I have carried this notion of community to another level. When I sued the University of California system and won, the court awarded me $300,000 in back and future earnings. But, again the issue of community gnawed at me. I had raised a sizeable amount of money from the Chicano community, which supported me throughout the suit. I felt that I had the right to pay my bills but I could not in conscience take the money and run. So, with my wife and the support of friends, we established a foundation to help other Latinos discriminated against by higher education.
I cannot speak for the Democrats or the Hispanic organizations. I can only speak for myself. Your notion of qualifications differs from mine. Just like in academe, there is a review process for federal judges. Having a degree merely gets you in the door, and the other part is the record that you build as a legal scholar. Much of this record is written. With Estrada, there is no written record. It would be highly unlikely for someone to be hired at a university as a full professor, for example, with the lack of a scholarly record. Even at California State University ,Northridge -- a teaching university -- it would not matter if a person had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard. The most that the university could give him is an assistant professorship. Similarly, it would be another story if Bush would have nominated Estrada to the federal courts as a trial judge. The standards would not be as high.
Please do not choose my icons for me. I do not consider Senators Pat Leahy and Teddy Kennedy my teachers. Moreover, whether or not I am a Marxist, Democrat, or Republican has nothing to do with the issue here. However, I return to the issue of community. The supporters of Estrada raised the issue of class. For example, the Concerned Women for America write: "Miguel Estrada . . . became the first Hispanic to be nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. His inspiring story is reminiscent of the late 19th-century Horatio Alger Jr. novels of achievement through hard work and determination." Bush has said much the same thing: "His name is Miguel Estrada. He's a young guy. He came to our country as a teenager. He barely spoke English. He had trouble with the language, because he didn't spend any time learning the language. And he got here, and he worked hard, and as a result of a good brain, a brilliant mind, he now has argued 15 cases before the United States Supreme Court." Well, my sources tell me different. Estrada was not a poor immigrant that came to this country without intellectual and financial capital and perhaps because of this experience he has not so far been sympathetic to the issues of working class Latinos and immigrants.
Fernando, I enjoy your responses, but they often cross the line. This is perhaps because you have been a Party activist. I have not and feel no compunction to support the party line. What I believe to be the interests of the Latino people strictly guide my objections to Estrada. The vast majority of Latinos have interests that Estrada does not share.
Rodolfo F. Acu?a, Ph.D.