Penny Starr, Cybercast News Service (CNS), December 3, 2008
An 18-year veteran of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), who advocated for federal legislation to give the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship, has been tapped for President-elect Barack Obama’s White House staff.
Cecilia Muñoz, who currently serves as senior vice president for the office of research, advocacy and legislation at the NCLR, will serve as director for intergovernmental affairs in the Obama administration.
In her new post, Muñoz will be responsible for managing relations between the Obama administration and state and local governments. She is a first-generation American whose parents came to the United States from Bolivia.
Muñoz, 46, said in an essay aired on National Public Radio on Sept. 26, 2005, that the anger sparked by what she considered a racist remark about Latinos made by a friend when she was 17 shaped her successful career as an immigration activist.
Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), told CNSNews.com that the director of intergovernmental affairs will play a critical role in the next administration, but it is a role that may be difficult for Muñoz to fulfill, given her background.
“Her affiliation with La Raza taints her ability to represent the broader national interest,” Dane said. “La Raza exists as a way to systematically dismantle enforcement and any semblance of discipline in the immigration system. Are we to believe that she is going to distance herself in her new role to represent the broader national interest?”
At a speech at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy in March 2007, Muñoz spoke about how the public, including the media, did not understand the NCLR’s goal of economic equity and social justice for immigrants.
She said previous attempts at immigration reform in the United States failed because legislation took a “hostile’ approach to solving what Muñoz said is “one of the most important domestic policies of our time.”
She cited legislation passed in Hazelton, Pa., for example, which made renting property to illegal aliens against the law, and road blocks on Georgia highways “because local police had gotten into the business of immigration enforcement.”
Muñoz said she supported comprehensive immigration reform that required people who are in the United States illegally to come forward, prove they have no criminal record and are paying taxes, pay a fine, start to learn English, and then be put on a path to citizenship that would take about 10 years to complete.