Attorney General

Backers Say Lawyer’s Immigration Work Cost Him Civil Rights Post

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Supporters are charging that a Los Angeles lawyer’s controversial litigation work on immigration issues cost him a job as chief of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

President Obama chose Maryland labor secretary Thomas Perez for the post, disappointing supporters of Thomas Saenz, counsel to the mayor of Los Angeles.

Saenz is the former vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Los Angeles, the Daily Journal reports (sub. req.). His lawsuits overturned local ordinances banning day laborers from city streets and a California referendum cutting services to undocumented aliens.

Conservatives have criticized Saenz’s work, according to the Daily Journal and the Los Angeles Times. An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily called him “a man who has dedicated his life to promoting illegal immigrant ‘rights.’ “

Law professor Maria Blanco of UC Berkeley told the Daily Journal that she has learned the White House had offered the position to Saenz but withdrew it because of expected opposition by anti-immigrant groups. Blanco was a member of the presidential transition team for Barack Obama and is executive director of UC Berkeley’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity & Diversity.

The National Council of La Raza has issued a statement expressing “profound disappointment” that Saenz didn’t get the job.

Asked for comment, a White House spokeswoman told the Daily Journal, “Tom Saenz is an outstanding attorney who would be on anyone’s short list for an important civil rights job, and remains in consideration for an administration post.”

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