A day after the embattled Andrew F. Puzder dropped his bid for Labor Secretary, President Donald Trump has announced that his new pick is R. Alexander Acosta, the New York Times reports. The nomination came amidst growing scrutinization of Puzder. Acosta, a Miami-born lawyer, is the son of Cuban immigrants and the dean of Florida International University’s law school. With this nomination, Trump has chosen his first Latino cabinet member. Last month, the Trump administration faced criticism for not including any Latinos, despite this demographic making up 17 percent of the United States’ population. The last time a cabinet had zero Latinos was in 1988, according to The Week.
Chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Hector Sánchez told that The Dallas Morning News, “By not including Latinos in the Cabinet, he is just showing how he is planning to govern.”
As his confirmation sessions nears, we’ll likely get a better sense of what Acosta will bring to the Trump Administration. In the meantime, here are five facts you should know:
He served on the National Labor Relations Board.
Unlike many of Trump’s picks, Acosta has actual relevant experience. George W. Bush appointed him to the National Labor Relations Board. He served as a member from December 2002 to August 2003, according to Heavy.
A professor said he created a "rift" in black community.
When he ran the US Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights from 2003 to 2005, where he supervised 350 lawyers. and served as the first Latino assistant attorney general. His employees were accused of hiring ultraconservative candidates over more qualified ones. The accusations led to an investigation of the office’s hiring practices, according to Miami New Times.
So when FIU chose him to run its law school in 2009, FIU’s former trial advocacy director said, “Acosta’s history in the Civil Rights Division has caused a rift with the black community.”
He pushed for an official Spanish translation of the Miranda Rights.
2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the Miranda Rights – the words police officers have to repeat anytime they arrest someone. However, if they arrest a Spanish speaker, it could mean that a cop could end up having to come up with a translation on the fly, which could have unfair consequences. In 2016, the ABA’s Special Committee on Legal Rights and Responsibilities – led by Acosta – proposed an official version. “As we looked into it, we discovered that too often Miranda is mistranslated, and that shouldn’t happen,” he told Vice. “This is something that should be very straightforward.”
The committee found that each year law enforcement needs the Spanish-language Miranda rights in about 874,000 instances.
“I think at the end of the day, if the American Bar Association says, ‘This is one that we have vetted and we support,’ I think many law enforcement agencies would certainly use that,” Acosta said. “Because it provides them a safeguard.”
He's advocated for Muslim Americans.
In 2011, Alexander Acosta appeared before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights hearing titled, “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims.” He began by reading the statements of two Muslim Americans.
“I speak about these two individuals because I think their stories highlight principles that make our nation great,” Acosta said. “… Nashala’s story begins in Oklahoma at the start of the 2003 school year, when she told her sixth grade public school teacher that she was Muslim, and that as part of her faith, she wore a headscarf, or hijab. The teacher at that time did not object, and Nashala happily attended school for the next month. That changed on September 11, 2003, when her teacher asked her to remove her headscarf… I authorized the Department of Justice to intervene in Nashala’s case, a fact I remember with a bit of irony, because shortly after we intervened to protect Nashala’s liberties, the nation of France enacted legislation forbidding religious symbols and clothing in schools. France banned headscarves, kippahs, crosses and any other religious clothing or jewelry. Our government, by contrast, protected religious expression.”
(Read the rest of his testimony here.)
He saw no issue with Republican plans to monitor voters at polls.
According to The Guardian, Acosta told a federal judge that the justice department had see no issue with thousands of Republicans monitoring the polls. “It is totally unusual, it is unprecedented for the justice department to offer its opinions on the merits of a case like that,” said Al Gerhardstein, a lawyer repping two activists fighting to ban poll watchers, back in 2004. “This is the civil rights division saying it is OK for voters to be ambushed when they reach for a ballot.”