Why Latinos should oppose Barrett confirmation
On Wednesday, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett declined to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee whether she thought that separating migrant children from their parents was wrong. “That’s a matter of hot political debate in which I can’t express a view or be drawn into as a judge,” the mother of seven kids said in response to a question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). When Booker rephrased his question, Barrett again demurred, saying she couldn’t “be drawn into a debate about the administration’s immigration policy.”
So much for family values. Barrett’s refusal to denounce a policy that sparked global outrage should be a red flag to Latino and immigrant communities. Her writings and record show that she holds beliefs that are out of sync with mainstream Latino views. A majority of Latino voters and many Latino advocacy groups believe that this nomination should not be held before the election. A Justice Barrett would threaten the civil, human, and constitutional rights of Latinos, with consequences that could affect our communities for decades.
Latinos consistently rank healthcare as a top issue, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped millions of Latinos access health care. But Trump has said that he would appoint judges who were against “Obamacare,” and Barrett fits that mold. In a 2017 article, she was critical of Chief Justice John Roberts for upholding the ACA, opining that the law was unconstitutional. She was likewise skeptical of the Court’s 2015 ruling upholding the ACA’s state health care subsidies. Now consider that Barrett could be the deciding vote in a case challenging the ACA that will be heard at the high court one week after election day. With her on the Court, an estimated 5.4 million Latinos could lose their health coverage amid a deadly pandemic that has disproportionally impacted our communities.
Barrett also has a troubling record on immigration. In Cook County v. Wolf (2020), she dissented from a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that temporarily struck down the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule for green card applicants. This rule penalizes potential legal immigrants for accessing government services that they were eligible for, like Medicaid and housing vouchers. In 2019, she held that U.S. consular authorities have unchecked power to deny visa applications to potential immigrants; and in 2018 Barrett refused to review the claim of an asylum-seeker seeking humanitarian protection under the Convention Against Torture. These rulings suggest that Barrett would defend Trump’s xenophobic immigration policies, including possible cases dealing with family separations, detention conditions, and DACA.
For Latinos, there are myriad other areas where Barrett’s views are cause for concern. A majority of U.S. Latinos (57 percent) believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases; Barrett heard two abortion cases while on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and ruled against abortion rights on both (She refused to say, at Tuesday’s hearing, whether Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided). While most Latinos support same-sex marriage, Barrett has an abysmal track record on LGBTQ rights. In employment cases, she has tended to favor businesses over workers. Her narrow views are especially worrisome given that the Supreme Court could soon hear cases involving the Census, affirmative action, and the 2020 election.
Most Latinos — just like majorities of other Americans — think that Congress should have waited until after the election to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. According to Latino Decisions polling, about two-thirds of Latinos say that the Senate should wait until after the election and let the next president make a nomination to the Court. More than half of Latinos said that, if Ginsburg were replaced before the election, they would be more likely to support Joe Biden for president.
True, not all Latinos are against Barrett’s confirmation. Daniel Garza, head of the Charles Koch-backed Libre Initiative, praised the nominee, saying, “Now more than ever we need a jurist who will decide each case based on U.S. Constitution and the law, and not issue rulings based on his or her personal agenda.” He’s right — only Barrett is not that jurist. Any examination of her record will find virtually no major rulings that are at odds with her personally conservative views. Instead, Barrett has expressed doubts about judicial precedent, a bedrock principle of American law, and embraced “textualism,” a dubious judicial philosophy that is deeply anti-democratic.
Barrett is such a threat to the Latino community that a coalition of civic and advocacy organizations has come together to weigh in on this “unprecedented and illegitimate confirmation process.” These groups include UnidosUS, United We Dream, Hispanic Federation, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and more.
A Justice Barrett on the high court would allow Trump to continue his assault on the ideals of equality and justice for all for years to come. Latinos — and all Americans — should oppose Barrett’s confirmation.
Raul A. Reyes is an immigration attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, he is also a contributor to NBCNews.com and CNN Opinion. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaulAReyes, Instagram: raulareyes1.