Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Casellas Tapped for Top EEOC Post: Latinos Decry Underrepresentation in Top Government Jobs

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Casellas Tapped for Top EEOC Post: Latinos Decry Underrepresentation in Top Government Jobs

Article excerpt

Casellas Tapped For Top EEOC Post: Latinos Decry Underrepresentation in. Top Government Jobs

by Roberto Rodríguez

With the relatively easy hurdle of a Senate confirmation before him, it appears that Air Force general counsel Gilbert F. Casellas, a past president of the National Hispanic Bar Association (NHBA), will soon be directing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Casellas, President Clinton's nominee to head EEOC, is a Philadelphia lawyer and former law clerk to the much-respected, former senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.

Born and raised in Tampa, where he attended segregated schools, Casellas will soon become one of the few Puerto Ricans to ever attain a high-ranking position in the Washington government establishment. Because he has already been cleared by the FBI and confirmed by the Senate last November for his Air Force job, he is expected to glide easily through the process.

The move comes amid pressure from Latino organizations, frustrated at President Clinton's failure to appoint a Latino to the U.S. Supreme Court. Latinos are also frustrated with president Clinton's low-rate of appointment of Latinos, particularly Puerto Ricans.

Although Wilfredo Caraballo, a Seton Hall law professor and president of the NHBA, welcomed Clinton's selection of Casellas, he characterized the pace of appointing Latinos to the administration as "disappointing."

About Time

"It takes a long time to appoint a Latino, especially a Puerto Rican," says Caraballo. "We've been dying to have a friend in the White House for the longest time."

Caraballo forthrightly states that as Clinton supporters, Latinos expected to be treated better than they were by the two previous Republican administrations.

"We expect more and faster appointments. We don't believe they should take so long. We have high expectations....He [Clinton] shouldn't play with that trust and hope," he says.

Juan Figueroa, president and general counsel of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), says his organization was not pleased that other national Latino organizations did not strongly support the nomination of Judge Jose Cabranes for the U.S. Supreme Court.

In terms of overall appointments, Latinos, but in particular Puerto Ricans, "have gotten the short end of the stick. A lot of people are angry about that, and rightly so," he says.

Figueroa's organization actively lobbied for Casellas' appointment. Not satisfied, Figueroa says, "There's another position [Community Relations Director] at Justice, which should go to a Puerto Rican."

Eyes on the Prize

James Vigil, president of the Hispanic Bar Association in Washington, DC, says that while it's true that many of the previous appointments have gone to Mexican Americans, his organization approves of both Casellas and the appointment of more Puerto Ricans to high-ranking positions. "Everyone is supportive of Casellas. It's an important position," says Vigil.

Because most Latino organizations believe that the agency has rarely served the needs of Latinos, EEOC is considered an important prize because it is responsible for monitoring the government's equal opportunity laws -- both in the public and private sector.

The agency deals primarily with housing and job discrimination and other federal laws. "It's very important to our community," says Figueroa.

In a recent letter to the White House, Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza, stated: "The nation's 25 million Americans of Hispanic descent have been severely underserved by [EEOC]. …

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