NCLR President Janet Murgia defends Sotomayor nomination

I had the opportunity to interview Janet Murgia, president of NCLR, the National Council of La Raza, this weekend in Chicago. This leading Latino civil rights organization has recently come under attack by right-wing conservatives attacking Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo called NCLR a "Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses."

Janet Murgia

Murgia responded to these attacks and also spoke about how Republicans could alienate Latino voters.

What is your reaction to the attacks against NCLR and Sotomayor?

For the National Council of La Raza it's very important for us to see that she get a fair shake in this process. What we've been calling for that she receive and fair process and receive a civil discourse in this nomination.

We believe that President Obama made this nomination based on substance and merit and it's been very discouraging for us to see some voices in the Republican Party talk about her nomination and not reference her credentials and her experience that lends her to be imminently qualified.

We expect there to be a lot of heightened scrutiny and a lot of questions about her record as any Supreme Court nominee should receive because it's such an important position.  But so far some of these extreme voices have not talked about her record but have basically raised questions about her ethnicity and even her affiliation with mainstream organizations (like NCLR) that have been part of this country's history for 40 years or longer.

One thing is certain that she has a distinguished record of service in this legal and judicial profession. She has a record of contribution more so than any other justice in the last 100 years. She has earned a respectful debate as part of this nomination process and she certainly has earned a chance to have a fair hearing. That's really what we're asking for. It's a shame some of these negative voices in the Republican Party, and it's not all, but that some have chosen to focus on quotes taken out of context and aspects of her background and even to make fun of her food and the way she pronounces her name. Those are not legitimate points to bring up.

What about Tom Tancredo equating NCLR with the Latino KKK?

They're not only attacking her. They're attacking all that she
represents. For our community, it's fair to say, that's painting a very
disturbing picture for us of the Republican Party.

What we haven't seen is very many leaders in the (Republican) Party
denouncing these kinds of statements. We can look at our record and
show people the great levels of contributions the National Council of
La Raza has made over the past 40 years.

Until she gets her hearing she is not able to defend herself. We just
want her to have a fair and open hearing so that when she can get up
there and comment she will.

But it's very discouraging for us that some again like Tancredo would
hurl those kinds of insults. Those are not just insults they're
patently false. We'd like to see obviously a more civil debate.

Organizations like PRLDEF and MALDEF and NCLR and LULAC really do
represent organizations that really have created a path for advancement
for so many in our community. To attempt to discredit them as a
detraction in this process for Supreme Court nomination is really a low
moment. And again it paints a very disturbing picture for the
Republican Party in our community. I would just say there's a lot at
play here including our vote.  I think that the Republican leadership
should be very careful. I will give the senators credit in trying to
create a much more civil atmosphere. But they should be denouncing
those who are not as cautious or as careful.

Are you hopeful she will be confirmed?

I believe she will be confirmed and she will do very well in her
hearings. And we will see that her record finally will shine. She has a
very distinguished record, superb credentials and an incredible amount
of judicial and legal experience.

Murgia was in Chicago for a NCLR board meeting and they voted in favor
of Sotomayor's nomination. NCLR will bring its annual conference to
Chicago from July 25 to July 28 at McCormick Place.

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