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CHC Chairwoman Tells GOP to Hold Fire on Sotomayor

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) is warning Republicans against criticizing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, saying it will hurt their party’s standing with Hispanics.

“The Republicans are looking at ways they can make inroads in the Latino community ... they need to be very cautious and careful” about lobbing harsh attacks on Sotomayor, Velázquez said Tuesday. Both Sotomayor and Velázquez are Puerto Rican.

Still, said Velázquez, President Barack Obama didn’t tap Sotomayor for the high court just because she is Hispanic.

“She is proud of being a Latina, but she is prouder of the fact that she can prove to the world your dreams can become reality. She embodies the American dream,” said Velázquez.

The CHC chairwoman said it will prove “very difficult” for Republicans to take down Sotomayor. Velázquez said Sotomayor’s experience shows her to be “a qualified and outstanding legal scholar.”

Sotomayor, 54, a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998, left the Bronx housing projects to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University and receive her law degree from Yale University. She served as assistant district attorney in New York’s Manhattan borough and was in private practice before being nominated by President George H.W. Bush for the federal district court in 1992.

Velázquez said she first learned of Sotomayor’s nomination on Tuesday morning, along with everybody else watching the news. But, she added, “I felt in my heart, that yes, she would be chosen.”

She applauded Obama for attempting to make the Supreme Court “an institution that truly represents America.”

Velázquez dismissed the idea that Hispanics would give Obama some wiggle room on a pressing issue for the Latino community — immigration reform — given his move to put a Hispanic on the high court.

“No. Let me tell you, those are two separate issues,” said Velázquez. “We’ll continue to press on the fact that we have a broken system and that we have to fix that broken system.”

Asked if Sotomayor’s nomination will at least help to advance the issue, Velázquez said, “Definitely not.”

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