Groups Demand Apology for Curiel and Latino Community

June 8, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, leading national Latino organizations came together in a telephonic press briefing to denounce the racist rhetoric aimed at U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel by Donald Trump. On the call were NCLR (National Council of La Raza) President and CEO, Janet Murguía; Hispanic National Bar Association National President Robert T. Maldonado; Voto Latino President and CEO María Teresa Kumar; Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) President and General Counsel Thomas Saenz; National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) Chair Hector Sanchez; and Latino Victory Project Interim Director César Blanco.

Trump has accused Judge Curiel, confirmed unanimously to his current post on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California by the Senate in 2012, of having an "inherent conflict of interest" in the Cohen v. Trump civil fraud lawsuit simply because of his Mexican heritage. Judge Curiel is a U.S. citizen, born and raised in the state of Indiana.

These attacks are just the latest in a series of vitriolic commentary made by the presidential candidate and aimed in particular at Hispanic Americans. In addition to having called Mexicans "rapists," and touted a plan to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S., Trump has also stated that the "overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and Hispanics."

"The Latino leaders here today are united in our strong condemnation of Donald Trump's despicable and baseless attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel. This distinguished jurist literally put his life on the line fighting the scourge of Mexican drug cartels; questioning his ability to do his job because of his heritage is a textbook example of racism. Trump continues to denigrate an entire community and that is unacceptable and un-American. He owes Judge Curiel and the entire Latino community an apology," said Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR.

"The HNBA has chosen to speak out because Trump's attack on Judge Curiel is an attack on all of the honorable diverse judges who serve our nation. Trump's statements about our judicial system will have a lasting impact on public opinion and confidence in that system. We face a dismal future if we are led to believe that judges who don't look like us cannot be impartial. That is a proposition that each and every one of us should reject on its face," stated Robert Maldonado, National President, HNBA.

"We're all here together to call to an end to the demonization of American Latinos. Undermining our judicial institutions by questioning their integrity for personal gain is a slippery slope and treads dangerous ground. Using heritage as a slur is beneath us as Americans," said María Teresa Kumar, President and CEO, Voto Latino.

"The notion that a judge's racial/ethnic background could disqualify him or her from hearing a case has been repeatedly rejected by the federal courts; indeed, the Supreme Court has rejected such race-based challenges as unconstitutional in the context of jury selection. There are very serious public policy implications linked to this public smearing of a highly respected federal judge," stated Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, MALDEF.

"In his latest prejudiced remarks regarding a well-respected judge, Trump conveys to all the daughters and sons of Mexican immigrants that their contributions to our nation are not valued equally—simply because of their Mexican heritage. This is a far cry from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream that we judge each other on the content of our character, not the color of our skin. Trump's un-American message deserves the condemnation it is receiving and this type of rhetoric should not be tolerated in our country," said Hector Sanchez, Chair, NHLA, and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

"As the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, and as someone who has served in uniform to defend the ideals we believe in, I am incredibly offended by Trump's comments about Judge Curiel, an accomplished fellow Mexican-American. Trump's demeaning comments, attitudes, and proposals are outright racist—as even Paul Ryan has acknowledged—they are dangerous and put at risk the essence of this country and what makes America already great. Judge Curiel will not be Trump's scapegoat, and our community and the American people will not stand by and let him demonize us," stated César Blanco, Interim Director of Latino Victory Project.

To listen to today's press conference, please click here.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund