Obama's Choice Of One Latino Attorney Over Another Leaves Immigration Advocates Sour

At a time when Latino and immigration advocates are closely watching every decision coming from the West Wing, President Barack Obama’s appointment last week of a Dominican American attorney from Maryland as head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division has generated complaints and discomfort.

But Thomas Perez, the nominee for Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, and until now the Maryland Secretary of Labor, is not the reason for the griping.

Rather, advocates who are weighing Obama’s commitment to immigration reform are angry about the president’s decision to pass over California’s Thomas Saenz, counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and a former vice president of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF.)

Obama’s change of heart –the job was reportedly offered to Saenz and then withdrawn — was interpreted as a lack of will on the part of the White House to engage in a prolonged confirmation fight that could have been a prelude to a Congressional debate on the administration’s immigration reform proposals.