All of us at EJS were ecstatic when we learned earlier this year that Tom Saenz was under consideration for Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice.
Tom would have brought to that position an extensive and celebrated background as a champion for civil rights, social justice and progressive values.
We were surprised to learn on Friday that President Obama appointed Maryland labor secretary Tom Perez to the post. The announcement was followed by reports that the administration offered the job to Tom Saenz and rescinded it because of “political considerations.”
At the same time that we congratulate Mr. Perez’s appointment to the position, we’re also mystified and incredibly disappointed by the administration’s seemingly unjustified change of heart about Tom Saenz.
Some say that the decision was based on the possibility that Tom’s progressive views on immigration would have fueled a nominations battle with Senate Republicans.
We hope there was a better reason.
As regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Tom served as lead counsel in civil rights cases involving such issues as educational equity, employment discrimination, immigrants’ rights, day laborer rights and voting rights.
He served as MALDEF’s lead counsel in successfully challenging California’s Proposition 187 in court, presenting extensive arguments on numerous occasions in three different cases involving the anti-immigrant initiative.
Tom clerked at both the federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after graduating summa cum laude from Yale University and receiving his law degree from Yale Law School.
His qualifications for the Assistant Attorney General position were never in question.
Please contact the White House and ask for an explanation of why the administration reneged on Tom Saenz’s appointment. President Obama has asked us to hold him accountable. We should do so now.