Reprinted with permission from the El Paso Times
Labor nominee spoke out against killings
Diana Washington Valdez/El Paso Times
Dec. 21, 2008
EL PASO - U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for labor secretary, led a U.S. congressional delegation to El Paso-Juárez five years ago to look into complaints about the abductions and murders of hundreds of women in Juárez and Chihuahua City.
Back then, Solis, D-Calif., told the El Paso Times, "If we can cure the ills of countries in the Middle East, then why can't we do the same on our own borders? This is an international human-rights issue."
The group - which included labor activist Dolores Huerta; U.S. Reps. Ciro Rodriguez and Silvestre Reyes, both D-Texas; and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill. - toured the area and received briefings from the FBI, Mexican officials, victims' families and others.
Solis also spearheaded a House resolution condemning the murders and urging U.S. involvement to solve them. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced the same resolution the House adopted in the Senate. The Senate adopted the resolution unanimously on May 3, 2006, when Obama was a junior senator representing Illinois.
El Paso retiree Victor Muñoz, a labor advocate and member of the Coalition Against Violence on the Border, said he was pleased Obama chose Solis.
"It took a woman to lead the delegation to the border," said Muñoz, who accompanied the group during several stops in Juárez and El Paso.
"She had the guts to take on the Mexican government while other U.S. officials tried avoid the issue because they wanted smooth relations with Mexico.
"She's an excellent choice for labor because she understands the workers' needs. She comes from a state with a great industry and ethnic mix, and that's been good experience for her."
Reyes and Gutierrez also applauded her nomination.
Gutierrez said, "In selecting Hilda, President-elect Obama has chosen wisely someone whose entire life has been dedicated to waging and winning battles in defense of children, women, union members and the environment."
Reyes said, "Congresswoman Hilda Solis is a vigorous advocate for low- and middle-income families and has a deep understanding of the hardships currently confronting many of America's workers."
At a news conference Friday in Chicago, Solis said, "As secretary of labor, I'll work to strengthen our unions and support every American in our nation's diverse work force."