Why Did the Obama Administration Renege on Its Offer to Tom Saenz?

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 The announcement was followed by reports that the administration offered the job to Tom Saenz and rescinded it because of “political considerations.”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.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

12 thoughts on “Why Did the Obama Administration Renege on Its Offer to Tom Saenz?

  1. Pingback: NCLR Expresses Profound Disappointment with Saenz Decision | Equal Justice Society

  2. Pingback: NCLR Expresses Profound Disappointment with Saenz Decision | Equal Justice Society

  3. I’m super behind the EJS agenda. All my European descended friends are too. And we ALL know that Obama is way-solid behind EJS’s agenda. He with his methodically pragmatic approach is the best thing Americans have going for us. Politics is real. It’s not delicate to put a name forward for a position and then rescind it. But it was nothing like the bull-headed, blind-eyed techniques of Bush. EJS needs to be accountable to its own agenda by supporting Obama in building a team that can bring about the real and positive changes that EJS fights for.
    Obama cannot afford to antagonize the political minority (Republicans) because he is working for the American minority (of all strips) who need him to succeed. Get with it EJS. EJS needs Obama to succeed. Be accountable to EJS’s mission statement. Obama supports it. You should support him. Think BIG and LONG! Saenz vs Perez: this is not the most important battle EJS has. There are bigger fish to fry, and Obama wants to fry them, too. Trish Welsh Taylor

  4. I’m super behind the EJS agenda. All my European descended friends are too. And we ALL know that Obama is way-solid behind EJS’s agenda. He with his methodically pragmatic approach is the best thing Americans have going for us. Politics is real. It’s not delicate to put a name forward for a position and then rescind it. But it was nothing like the bull-headed, blind-eyed techniques of Bush. EJS needs to be accountable to its own agenda by supporting Obama in building a team that can bring about the real and positive changes that EJS fights for.
    Obama cannot afford to antagonize the political minority (Republicans) because he is working for the American minority (of all strips) who need him to succeed. Get with it EJS. EJS needs Obama to succeed. Be accountable to EJS’s mission statement. Obama supports it. You should support him. Think BIG and LONG! Saenz vs Perez: this is not the most important battle EJS has. There are bigger fish to fry, and Obama wants to fry them, too. Trish Welsh Taylor

  5. good call EJS! I think that such an inquiry has to be made. I hear your comments Trish, however we must address issues as they come, before they become patterns. Here if the withrdrawal of the offer is based on a political calculation about the immigrant issue–which by the way is instrinscally connected with race– then it is inapproriate, both on pragmatic and fairness grounds. I understand that sometimes you compromise, but I just dont think this is that time. But who knows, what do other people think?

  6. good call EJS! I think that such an inquiry has to be made. I hear your comments Trish, however we must address issues as they come, before they become patterns. Here if the withrdrawal of the offer is based on a political calculation about the immigrant issue–which by the way is instrinscally connected with race– then it is inapproriate, both on pragmatic and fairness grounds. I understand that sometimes you compromise, but I just dont think this is that time. But who knows, what do other people think?

  7. Thank you for putting this out. Obama needs to be held accountable and criticized by his supporters when he takes positions that our counter to what we know he should be doing. We cannot stay silent. to the contrary , our opposition should be loud and clear. The administration needs to be pushed from the left, not just the right. The administration’s position in withdrawing the Saenz nomination was very disappointing–thanks you for calling on people to respond. ALSO, people should respond loudly, rebuking the administration for its position in District Court in D.C> last week, basically continuing the Bush administration’s position on right to indefinitely detain Guantanamo prisoners. The Obama administration’s positions on national security matters in general has deviated little from those of Bush and people should respond to that also.

  8. Thank you for putting this out. Obama needs to be held accountable and criticized by his supporters when he takes positions that our counter to what we know he should be doing. We cannot stay silent. to the contrary , our opposition should be loud and clear. The administration needs to be pushed from the left, not just the right. The administration’s position in withdrawing the Saenz nomination was very disappointing–thanks you for calling on people to respond. ALSO, people should respond loudly, rebuking the administration for its position in District Court in D.C> last week, basically continuing the Bush administration’s position on right to indefinitely detain Guantanamo prisoners. The Obama administration’s positions on national security matters in general has deviated little from those of Bush and people should respond to that also.

  9. While the Obama administration needs to be pressured from the left (as it is being pressured from the right) as Marc points out, the Perez vs. Saenz appointment nomination does not quiet fit this category.

    I was also very disappointed that Tom Saenz’ nomination was withdrawn. But Tom Perez appointment is not the “compromise” that it might appear at first sight. While Tom Perez has followed a different career path from Tom Saenz, he is committed to civil rights, including the rights of immigrants, and is a progressive. I know this first hand from working as an advocate with him when he was the Director of the Office of Civil Rights for Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration.

    I do share concerns expressed by Janet Muriaga that the message that not nominating Saenz delivers to young promising attorneys—that being a committed and an aggressive advocate for civil rights, social and economic justice can be a bar to serving our nation and discourage them from pursing such public interest paths. More importantly, I am concerned that this reversal will be perceived as President Obama’s administration caving in to extremists who have been waging a war against Latino organizations and its leaders because of their dogged advocacy on behalf of immigrants.

    However, I hope that in expressing our concerns, we do not diminish Tom Perez’ impressive credentials. He is a great candidate who deserves our support (and constructive criticism as may be needed).

    Luz Buitrago
    Civil Rights Attorney

  10. While the Obama administration needs to be pressured from the left (as it is being pressured from the right) as Marc points out, the Perez vs. Saenz appointment nomination does not quiet fit this category.

    I was also very disappointed that Tom Saenz’ nomination was withdrawn. But Tom Perez appointment is not the “compromise” that it might appear at first sight. While Tom Perez has followed a different career path from Tom Saenz, he is committed to civil rights, including the rights of immigrants, and is a progressive. I know this first hand from working as an advocate with him when he was the Director of the Office of Civil Rights for Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration.

    I do share concerns expressed by Janet Muriaga that the message that not nominating Saenz delivers to young promising attorneys—that being a committed and an aggressive advocate for civil rights, social and economic justice can be a bar to serving our nation and discourage them from pursing such public interest paths. More importantly, I am concerned that this reversal will be perceived as President Obama’s administration caving in to extremists who have been waging a war against Latino organizations and its leaders because of their dogged advocacy on behalf of immigrants.

    However, I hope that in expressing our concerns, we do not diminish Tom Perez’ impressive credentials. He is a great candidate who deserves our support (and constructive criticism as may be needed).

    Luz Buitrago
    Civil Rights Attorney

  11. Pingback: Adventures of the Coconut Caucus - We put the PANIC in Hispanic » Si Se Puede: Only One Token Beaner Allowed

  12. Pingback: Adventures of the Coconut Caucus - We put the PANIC in Hispanic » Si Se Puede: Only One Token Beaner Allowed

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