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Hispanics Have Earned a Place at the Table of Justice

El Diario/La Prensa, Editorial, Staff Posted: May 07, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court has never had a Hispanic justice. It is time for President Barack Obama to change the glaring invisibility of Latinos on the nations highest court.

The simple argument for a Latino appointment is that Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing demographic group in the United States. Hispanics are 15 percent of the nations population and by 2050, one in four Americans will be Latino.

Hispanic-Americans sit in the board rooms of many of the prestigious corporations in the world. Latinos guide some of this countrys leading universities and its most respected cultural and artistic institutions. Hispanic officers have risen to the highest levels of the military and have born the heavy load of leading American armies in war.

With this growing presence, the absence of a Hispanic on the Supreme Court is even more conspicuous. And the overall representation of Hispanics in the federal judiciarywhere Latinos make up only seven percent of judges leaves plenty of room for improvement.

But the Latino share of the American experience is not merely a claim about numbers and fair representation. This is a story about the changing complexion of America. It is about the critical history that Latinos have written, and are writing daily, in and for America. This moment is a reflection of how Latinos have worked to move our nation towards its promise of a more perfect union. Those great sacrifices and contributions have been made even in the face of discrimination and great odds.

Ask Sylvia Mendez. Years before Brown v. the Board of Education, Mendezs Mexican-Puerto Rican parents stood up to discrimination against Latino students, on the basis of national origin, in California. The landmark Mendez v. Westminster case led to the de-segregation of schools in that state, and laid the groundwork for officially ending racial segregation in public schools across the nation.

Ask one of the remaining 65,000 Puerto Rican soldiers who served in Korea. Not one of them has ever received a Medal of Honor for the acts of bravery exhibited by the 65th Infantry in that battlefront.

Ask Latinos who remember what it was like trying to exercise their right to vote decades ago in New York City. Then, literacy and language requirements that resonated with the Jim Crow South were used to shut out Latinos. The battles that Puerto Ricans and others engaged in to eliminate those barriers helped open the ballot for a range of voters.

Countless Hispanics have toiled in farmlands to factories, from the west to the east, alongside Americans of all colors to build and strengthen our nation. Their labor is too often missing from the chronicles about our nation.

Latinos have lived and loved and fought for and died for this country for many generations. This struggle is an irreducible part of what makes our country great. And we have much more to give in the years to come.

We urge President Obama to make history again, and give Latinos a well-earned seat at the table of justice we call the Supreme Court.

Related Articles:

A Latina Supreme Court Judge Could Soothe Hispanics

First Latina Supreme Court Justice?

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