In an October 1979 press release opposing President Carter's nomination of Charles Renfrew as deputy attorney general, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) sharply criticized the Carter administration. MALDEF was troubled by Renfrew's comments that he did not think Latinos had been _subjected to pervasive de jure and nationwide discrimination._ MALDEF concluded the press release by issuing an ultimatum: _The President can expect now to be challenged on every step he takes that could adversely affect the welfare of Hispanics. He has less than a year to make good on his professed commitments to our people._
What this press release did not mention was that one month earlier, in September 1979, President Carter had appointed Esteban Torres to head the newly created White House Office of Hispanic Affairs. In filling the post, Torres became the highest ranking Mexican American in the White House. Torres and his staff confronted issues like those raised by MALDEF and also made sure that government programs served the needs of Latinos. The documents in this collection show that while problems and tensions existed from 1979 through 1981, the Carter administration created new employment and educational opportunities for the nation's growing Latino population.
Other major topics in the collection are violence and police brutality, Latino participation in Carter's 1980 reelection campaign, housing opportunities, consumer education, U.S. military testing on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, and information on Latino appointments to judgeships and other government positions. The collection also includes issues of the Office of Hispanic Affairs newsletter. The newsletter covered local, national, and international stories.