By Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez
LatinaLista — Congresswoman Nydia M. VelÃ¡zquez is serving her ninth term as Representative for New York’s 12th Congressional District. Currently, in the 111th Congress, she is Chair of the House Small Business Committee and a senior member of the Financial Service Committee.
Congresswoman VelÃ¡zquez has made history several times during her tenure in Congress. In 1992, she was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In February 1998, she was named Ranking Democratic Member of the House Small Business Committee, making her the first Hispanic woman to serve as Ranking Member of a full House committee. Most recently, in 2006, she was named Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, making her the first Latina to chair a full Congressional committee.
Congresswoman VelÃ¡zquez’ latest achievement is serving as the Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). Founded in 1976, the CHC addresses national and international issues and their impact on the Hispanic community.
In her role as CHC Chair, Congresswoman VelÃ¡zquez also serves as a voice for the greater Latino community by advocating greater representation of Latinos among the three branches of government.
In the following special post to Latina Lista, Congresswoman VelÃ¡zquez underscores how no Hispanic has ever been appointed to the
Supreme Court and what such an appointment would mean to the Latino community and the nation.
One of the greatest privileges of the presidency is the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices. Nine out of the last ten presidents have done so, with Jimmy Carter being the one exception.
In fact, only a handful of presidents have not had this distinct honor. Given the odds, it is likely that Barack Obama will get a chance to make his own nomination. In doing so, he will have a unique opportunity to give a historically excluded community a seat at the table.
It is high time for a Latino or Latina to serve on this nation’s highest court.
We now make up 15 percent of the U.S population, and by 2050 that number is expected to reach 30 percent. As the fastest growing community in the nation, we have a deep pool of talent to draw from.
Already, Hispanic leaders from new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to recently confirmed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are changing the face of American leadership. The presence of a Hispanic Supreme Court Justice would underscore the growing influence of our community, and would bring pride to millions.
Just as importantly, it would inspire greater confidence in the integrity of the process, and contribute to the quality of judicial decisions.
Because the Supreme Court is the highest judicial body in the United States, its actions deeply impact the lives of ordinary people. It has the power to uphold the highest ideals of American democracy. At the same time, it has the power to close the courthouse door to those seeking relief from injustice.
That is why the composition of the Court is so critical and why it must reflect the hopes and needs of the people it serves. A Justice who has shared the life experiences of the least privileged among us would bring a valuable perspective. This person should be intellectually honest. He or she must possess sound judgment, outstanding character and a profound sense of fairness.
There is a noble phrase engraved in marble on the Supreme Court Building. It says, “Equal Justice Under Law.” When the time comes, I urge President Obama to help us live up to that ideal.
I urge him to nominate a Latino to serve in America’s highest court, and to finally give our community a seat at the table of justice.