Hispanics Call for 'Cool Down' on Estrada

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The disagreement among Hispanics over whether to support Miguel Estrada for a federal appeals court slot is so strident that the National Council of La Raza has called for both sides to cool down.

"While NCLR remains neutral on the nomination itself, we urge those who are engaging in name-calling and accusatory language to instead focus on the substantive issues and merits of this nomination," the group said in a statement. "Since the Latino community is clearly divided on the Estrada nomination, we find the accusation that one side or another is 'anti-Latino' to be particularly divisive and inappropriate."

The plea for civility from the nation's largest constituency-based Hispanic organization underscores the deep division in the Hispanic community over whether to support Mr. Estrada, whom President Bush has nominated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

As the Senate debates the nomination, Democrats continued yesterday to block Republican efforts to hold a vote in the full chamber to confirm the nominee. Democrats say Mr. Estrada was not forthcoming in a committee hearing about his beliefs and opinions. They want internal memos from Mr. Estrada's time at the Solicitor General's Office under the Clinton and former Bush administrations.

Democrats yesterday also blocked votes in the Judiciary Committee on two appellate nominees until the end of the month. However, one judge, Jeffrey Sutton, won recommendation from the panel, 11-8, to be a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

As for Mr. Estrada, Republicans will use next week's scheduled recess to renew their push for the confirmation of Mr. Estrada in part by stepping up attention in the Spanish-language press and home-state newspapers of Democratic senators. And both sides have held rallies with Hispanic lawmakers and interest groups to make their case.

All five Republican Hispanic members of Congress support the Estrada nomination.

"The excuses that are used against him would be funny if they weren't serious," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican. He recounted Mr. Estrada's background of having come to the United States from Honduras at the age of 17 speaking little English, and then graduating from Columbia University and Harvard Law School with honors.

Mr. Diaz-Balart and other Hispanics said Mr. Estrada's early experience is one many Hispanics can relate to, and his achievement is something they can point to.

"For people that barely speak Spanish, who were born in this country, to use the reason that they object to Mr. Estrada that he's not Hispanic enough is, frankly, pretty ridiculous," Mr. Diaz-Balart said.

But the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, made up of 20 Democratic members of the House, unanimously opposes the nomination.

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, Texas Democrat and the head of the caucus panel that reviews judicial nominees, said the issue is not that Mr. …