Latinas in elected positions in the U.S. is steadily on the rise and though there’s a long way to go we can now add another Latina First to the growing list. Norma V. Cantú is now the first Latina to hold the position of Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights after a unanimous vote that concurred with President Joe Biden’s appointment of her as Chair.
This appointment showcases Biden’s intentions, as he claimed during his campaign, to bring in more people of color as elected officials. His Cabinet includes four Latinos with Xavier Becerra among them and he also appointed Rep. Deb Haaland who is the first Native American Secretary of the Interior.
Cantú is a Professor of Education and Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and education law. She also spent eight years as the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights in the Clinton.
She was also a member of the Biden-Harris Transition’s “Agency Review Team” for education. Cantú co-founded the Mexican-American Legislative Leadership Foundation in 2002. She completed her juris doctor from Harvard Law School at the age of 22 and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Texas-Pan America when she was 19 years old.
Now she’s the Chair of an organization that was founded in 1957 as a result of the The Civil Rights Act established that year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan, fact-finding federal agency aimed at informing the development of national civil rights policy and to enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws.
“We extend a warm welcome to Commissioner Norma V. Cantú to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She has years of exceptional practical and policy-making experience in civil rights, education and in the federal government, making Commissioner Cantú a solid addition to the Commission. We look forward to incorporating her experience and judgment in advancing our mission of investigating comprehensive Federal civil rights policy and analyzing the enforcement of civil rights laws,” Commission Staff Director Mauro Morales said in a statement.
Cantú’s appointment comes after a spike in Latina elected officials serving in office. The NALEO Educational Fund found 2,401 Latinas serving in elected office, comprising 36 percent of the total number of Latino elected officials nationwide in 2017. That’s a 17 percent increase from 2013, when only 2,052 Latinas were serving in an elected official capacity.
“I am looking forward to advancing the mission of the Commission on civil rights matters facing our Nation today, in collaboration with my esteemed colleagues on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,” Cantú said in a statement.