Don’t be confused by the term “La Raza” and lump them in with the California La Raza Lawyers Association:
“He is a member of a club or society, very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine,” Trump said on Face the Nation on June 5. “But I say, he’s got bias. I want to build a wall.”
It’s a serious matter to accuse federal judges of bias solely because of their ethnic background, and top-ranking Republicans have rejected Trump’s line.
Our interest though is strictly in this club that Trump referenced. Is it actually “strongly pro-Mexican” as he said?
We reached out to the Trump campaign for details and did not hear back.
The group in question is the California La Raza Lawyers Association. It dates back to 1977. The group’s immediate past president, Joel Murillo, told us that it was formed in response to stereotyping coming from judges and lawyers.
“There were judges on the bench saying people with Spanish surnames were prone to be savages,” Murillo said. “When we tried to integrate with the mainstream bar association, we were denied. We were marginalized. The only people who were willing to work with us were us.”
Murillo says the days of stereotyping are over, and the group now focuses on the professional development of Latino lawyers and encouraging students to pursue a career in law. He called Trump’s description of the association as very strongly pro-Mexican a “misnomer.” Murillo said most of the group’s recent work targets improving the quality of education for all students in California.
The group has not been involved in the immigration debate.
We asked Johnson if including “La Raza” in the group’s name carried a special meaning. He said the term is “sort of a product of its times” that emerged from the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“The founders and presidents have not been remarkable, in a political sense,” Johnson said.
The group is often confused with the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group often criticized by conservatives. Aside from a similarity in their names, the only tie we found was a link to the National Council of La Raza on the lawyers association website. But that list of links also includes the National Latino Police Officers Association and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The conservative website Redstate posted an op-ed rebuking Trump’s use of the California lawyers group as proof of Judge Curiel’s political motives. The writer, Leon Wolf, called the effort to disparage the association “dishonest.”
“As far as I can tell, they appear to be a pretty garden variety special interest lawyers association,” Wolf wrote. “Every state has these chapters for Hispanic lawyers, black lawyers, women lawyers, Mormon lawyers, Christian lawyers, Jewish lawyers — you name it, there is a lawyer association for it in every state.”
Trump said Curiel belonged to a group that is very strongly pro-Mexican. The California La Raza Lawyers Association does advance the interests of the Latino legal community and works on issues that matter in Latino communities more broadly.
However, it has stayed on the sidelines in the immigration debate. The one exception is one letter from a dozen years ago which objected to a television show on the grounds that the program encouraged people to enter the country without documentation. The group’s rare court filings focus on civil rights in general.
Trump’s statement is accurate only in the sense that the association’s mission aims to support Latinos, but even that is flawed because he said the group was pro-Mexican and the Latino designation reaches a wider set of people. The claim ignores critical facts that would give a very different impression.
We rate this assertion Mostly False.
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