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Question on Sotomayor: What Does Obama’s SCOTUS Nomination Have to Do with Immigration Reform?

by Frank Sharry on 05/26/2009 at 10:30am

Sotomayor

Answer: Nada.

Well, almost nothing. To watch the coverage on mainstream news and in the blogosphere one might think exactly the opposite, however.

In “First thoughts: It’s Sotomayor,” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro announce today’s historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, a Yale Law School graduate and Princeton undergrad who the President notes, has more experience ‘than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court had when they were appointed.” Impressive stuff.

None of these credentials seem to top the fact that Sotomayor is a Latina woman, however. The piece— as well as many, many like it— begins:

At 10:15 am ET from the White House’s East Room, President Obama will again make history by nominating the first Hispanic to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit.

The commentators do not linger long on Sotomayor’s extensive qualifications or unique background before diving into the politics allegedly lurking behind the pick. They speculate that the nomination clearly signals the Administration’s desire to “check the box” when it comes to quote-unquote “Latino issues” in order to dodge a pesky immigration reform bill:

As we’ve mentioned before, Latino groups have been grumbling somewhat about their representation (or lack thereof) in the Obama administration, as well as the fact that immigration reform doesn’t appear to be on the White House’s front-burner. But this pick buys Obama A LOT of time with Hispanics — a demographic he won last year, 67%-31% — on immigration and other issues. Is it a coincidence that Obama this week heads out West to Nevada and California, two states with large Latino populations? [Emphasis ours].

It’s not just MSNBC making the claim that Obama can “buy time with Hispanics” on pressing national issues like immigration reform. Mark Krikorian, part of John Tanton’s anti-immigrant network, writes gleefully on the National Review today:

I predicted three weeks ago that Sotomayor was guaranteed to get the nod — as a consolation prize for Hispanic pressure groups, since there isn’t going to be an amnesty.

And while I love Chuck Todd (can’t say the same of Mark Krikorian), here’s a little reality check-list for both, from yours truly.

Those who think Sotomayor’s nomination means no on comprehensive immigration reform (for those new to this whole world, “amnesty” is what Tanton’s clan call any plan to fix our immigration mess) should consider these four points:

1. Hispanic voters care about immigration reform. A whole lot.

2. So do swing voters. (In fact, the general public’s support for reform is at an all-time high, despite the economy).

3. Obama has renewed his campaign pledge to move reform forward in year 1. Again, and again, and again.

4. Two words: June 8th.

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