Politics & Policy

Estrada Letter

A former Honduran presidential candidate and U.S. citizen questions the obstruction.

Senator Orrin Hatch March, 2003

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Hatch:

I continue to be troubled by the vicious attacks and falsehoods being hurled at Miguel Estrada on a daily basis by those who wish to obstruct a vote on his nomination. Like Mr. Estrada, I too, am Honduran-American. I know and admire him, and I know much about his life growing up in Honduras.

Miguel Estrada is truly the personification of the “American Dream.” Those who know him know that he is a modest gentleman, and does not talk easily about himself. In fact, he would probably rather I not extol his virtues at all. Indeed, his humble roots should not be relevant to his nomination proceedings. I believe that President Bush nominated him not because he is Hispanic, and not because he immigrated to the United States and fulfilled the American dream. The President recognized that Miguel Estrada was a truly exceptional lawyer who will serve our country well.

Day after day, Senator, I have been listening to a handful of Members of Congress, and various others from special interest groups allege that Estrada is not the man that President Bush and his supporters maintain he is. At first, I was keeping a list of who said what, and when it was said; but it simply got to be too much to record each and every contention. So I have compiled a simple chart for your use. The first column contains the basic myths that have been leveled over and over again at Mr. Estrada, and the second column counters with the actual truth.

As a former Presidential candidate in Honduras, and a permanent U.S Resident now living in the Washington, D.C. area, I can assure you that those of us who have spent much of our lives fighting to achieve genuine rule of law in Honduras (and in other countries), fail to understand why Mr. Estrada is being so maliciously maligned — merely because he has not revealed enough of his personal opinions. In countries where there has been a real struggle to have an independent judiciary, we have long admired the fact that U.S. judges are generally apolitical.

Hondurans would give everything to have a judge like Estrada who has an outstanding record upholding the Constitution.


René Fonseca


• The opponents claim that “Miguel Estrada comes from a wealthy Honduran family…”

• “Let’s not try to make this a rags-to-riches story because it was not.”

• Republicans have attempted to portray Estrada as “a Latino Horatio Alger.’’

• “He didn’t come from a poor, disadvantaged background,’’ La Ramee said. “He came from a background of relative privilege.”

• Miguel Estrada immigrated to the USA at 17. He was merely gifted. He left Honduras because he knew there was little future for him there.

• He lived in a five-room house (counting kitchen) in a lower-middle class neighborhood.

• His father paid the equivalent of $9000 U.S. dollars in 1972 for their home.

• His mother left Honduras when Miguel was 8 years old. She originally came to the U.S. as a secretary, and worked her way up to a professional level after 15 years.

• They assert that Miguel Estrada attended a private school in Honduras for elitist, rich families. • Miguel attended a Catholic school in Honduras (not even bilingual), and paid an average of $15 (U.S. dollars) to attend. The school was for lower, middle class families.

• Opponents allege that Miguel Estrada’s father was an affluent lawyer. • His father was a modest, but decent lawyer. He was a company lawyer for a time, and then moved outside the capital, and practiced private law, in a one-room office, in a poor area of town.

• When Miguel came to the U.S., his father was 49 yrs. old, and earning a salary of about $6000 (U.S. dollars) per year.

• His father, Jesús Estrada did not even leave enough money to pay the Hospital (Centro Médico) bill when he died. Miguel was already working for a law firm, and paid his father’s hospital bill.

• It has been repeated that “He was not editor of the Law Review…” • Estrada was the Editor of the Harvard Law Review from 1984-1986, when at Harvard Law School
• Opponents say that Miguel’s Father was a Bank Vice- President in Honduras • His father was never a bank V.P., and never even worked in a bank.
• Opponents claim Estrada is not a “real Hispanic.”

• “He does not appreciate the interests of poor people.

• “His family came from the Honduran elite.”

• “The “Latino Horatio Alger story that’s been concocted’’ about Estrada’s success and, more generally, about the “concocted, invented Latino imagery’’ of Estrada’s life.”

• How could one be more Hispanic? He was born and raised in Honduras, and immigrated to U.S. speaking no English.

• He joined no Hispanic associations, because he did not have time. He came to the U.S. to study, and try to have a better life.


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