La Raza Forum Targets Immigration

Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2006

One of the nation’s largest Latino advocacy and civil rights organizations plans to meet in Los Angeles this weekend to instruct people how to mobilize and vote out those who fail to back generous new immigration laws.

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“We’re in a stalemate . . . It looks dismal,” said Janet Murguia, La Raza’s president and chief executive officer. “We want people to walk away from our conference with clear steps they can take if nothing happens.”

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“The hearings suggest to me that there are some in Congress—especially in the House—who would prefer to have an issue as opposed to a solution,” she said.

The nonprofit organization, based in Washington, D.C., claims 40,000 members and a network of nearly 300 affiliated community organizations that focus primarily on civil rights, immigration, economics, education and health.

Founded in 1968, the organization grew out of efforts to promote civil rights for Mexican Americans but soon expanded to embrace all of the subgroups among the nation’s 40 million Latinos.

Murguia said those groups historically have championed separate issues tied to their ancestral countries: trade sanctions against Cuba, the political status of Puerto Rico. But the immigration issue has drawn all of them together in a striking way, she said.

“It has taken us a while to get comfortable under the same umbrella,” Murguia said. But immigration “marches showed we can find solidarity and common ground to advance our community overall.”

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“Demographers say we are now the largest minority population in the country, but the challenge is how to leverage this growth into economic empowerment, political power and social advancement,” Murguia said.

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