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Immigration Reform: NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA (NCLR)

NCLR Logo

With more than 300 affiliate organizations in 41 U.S. states, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is currently the largest national Hispanic civil-rights and advocacy organization in America. It is also one of the most influential, as reflected in the fact that NCLR representatives have been called to testify at Congressional hearings more than 100 times since the 1970s.

NCLR’s roots can be traced back to the early 1960s, when a group of young Mexican Americans in Washington, DC decided to form a coordinating body to bring existing Hispanic groups—which were generally small and isolated—together into a single united front, which they called the National Organization for Mexican American Services (NOMAS). Soon thereafter, NOMAS presented a funding proposal to the Ford Foundation, which in turn issued a large grant to finance a major, first-of-its-kind UCLA study of Mexican Americans and the major issues they faced.

Before long, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights began to hold a series of influential hearings on the status of Mexican Americans and, later, other Latino groups residing in the United States. In addition, the Ford Foundation initiated a second (though less academic) investigation of the same subject. To carry out that study, Ford hired three Mexican Americans—Dr. Julian Samora (a community activist who helped pioneer the field of Latino Studies; Dr. Ernesto Galarza (a professor who was widelyconsidered “the dean of Chicano activism”); and Herman Gallegos (a San Francisco-based community organizer who had previously worked with his mentor, Saul Alinsky, to establish a Mexican-American political action group. These three men traveled throughout the Southwest to meet with other Hispanic activists vis a vis policies and programs that could be developed to help Mexican Americans. These consultations resulted in the publication of two reports showing that Mexican Americans “faced numerous obstacles, especially with respect to poverty”; needed “more local, grassroots programmatic and advocacy organizations”; and could benefit from a sustained “national advocacy” campaign on their behalf.

To address these issues, Galarza, Samora, and Gallegos collaborated to co-found the Southwest Council of La Raza (SWCLR)—NCLR’s predecessor—in Phoenix, Arizona in February 1968. SWCLR’s major funding was provided by the Ford Foundation, the National Council of Churches, and the United Auto Workers union. Gallegos became SWCLR’s first executive director, while Galarza served as a consultant to the nascent organization. In the summer of 1968, SWCLR began to help establish and support barrio (community) groups committed to “promoting empowerment, voter registration, leadership development, and other forms of advocacy.”

At the end of 1972, SWCLR became a national organization and changed its name to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR, often simply called “La Raza”) “to reflect its commitment to represent and serve all Mexican Americans in all parts of the country.” The following year, the group relocated its headquarters from Phoenix to Washington, DC. Thanks in large measure to continued support from the Ford Foundation (totaling approximately $40 million in grants over the next four decades), NCLR would grow into a behemoth of the left-wing “civil rights” and “social justice” establishment.

Controversy over the Name “La Raza”

The words “La Raza” (Spanish for “The Race”) in NCLR’s name have long been a source of considerable controversy. Critics claim that the name reflects an organizational commitment to racial separatism and race-based grievance mongering. By NCLR’s telling, however, such critics have mistranslated the word “Raza.” “The term ‘La Raza,’” says the organization, “has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as ‘the people’ or, according to some scholars, ‘the Hispanic people of the New World.’” According to NCLR, “the full term,” which was coined by the Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos, is “la raza cósmica,” meaning “the cosmic people.” NCLR describes this as “an inclusive concept” whose purpose is to express the fact that “Hispanics share with all other people’s of the world a common heritage and destiny.”

NCLR’s interpretation of Vasconcelos’s explanation, however, is inaccurate. As Guillermo Lux and Maurilio Vigil (professors of history and political science, respectively, at New Mexico Highlands University) note in their 1991 book, Aztlan: Essays on the Chicano Homeland:

“The concept of La Raza can be traced to the ideas and writings of Jose Vasconcelos, the Mexican theorist who developed the theory of la raza cosmica (the cosmic or super race) at least partially as a minority reaction to the Nordic notions of racial superiority. Vasconelos developed a systematic theory which argued that climatic and geographic conditions and mixture of Spanish and Indian races created a superior race. The concept of La Raza connotes that the mestizo is a distinct race and not Caucasian, as is technically the case.”

In short, Vasconcelos was not promoting “an inclusive concept,” but rather, the notion of Hispanic racial superiority.

NCLR’s claim is further contradicted by the Council’s own race-specific statements about its activities and objectives. For example, NCLR says that it “welcomesaffiliation from independent Hispanic groups” which share its goals; that it “assistsHispanic groups that are not formal Affiliates”; that it “supports and strengthens Hispanic community-based organizations nationwide—especially those that serve low-income and disadvantaged Hispanics”; that it seeks “to increase policymaker and public understanding of Hispanic needs and to encourage the adoption of programs and policies that equitably serve Hispanics”; that it serves “all Hispanic subgroups in all regions of the country”; and that its political and ideological message is “reaching millions of Hispanics each year.”

La Raza Mag

The Early Years

In 1974 Raul Yzaguirre began a 30-year tenure as NCLR’s national director. Under his stewardship, NCLR in 1975 not only started to concentrate more heavily on public-policy issues but also began to “gradually broaden” its focus from one that was “solely on Mexican Americans,” to one that included all “Chicanos and other Hispanics.” This expanded constituency became official NCLR policy in 1979 when the organization’s board of directors affirmed the Council’s role as “an advocate for all Hispanics.”

The most prominent individual associated with the fledgling NCLR was the legendary union activist Cesar Chavez, who was elected to Council’s board. He was unable to serve in any meaningful way, however, because of the demands of his principal occupation as head of the United Farm Workers of America.

Maclovio Barraza, a Tucson-based labor organizer who claimed that the injustices inherent in American society had turned Mexican Americans in the Southwestern U.S. into one of “the most disadvantaged segments of our society,” served as NCLR’s board chairman during the organization’s first 9 years. Notably, the federal government’s Subversive Activities Control Board had identified Barraza as a Communist Party member.

Illegal Mexican Immigration

NCLR’s Opposition to Post-9/11 Homeland Security Policies

NCLR strongly opposed most of the U.S. government’s post-9/11 counterterrorism efforts—alleging, in most cases, that they “undermined” the rights of “noncitizen Latinos.” Some examples:

  • NCLR opposed the Aviation Transportation and Security Act of 2001, which required that all U.S. airport baggage screeners—many of whom were Hispanics—be American citizens. “Tying together citizenship and security—without any evidence that the two are linked—sets a new and dangerous precedent in the United States” said NCLR staffer Michele Waslin.
  • NCLR endorsed the December 18, 2001 “Statement of Solidarity with Migrants,” which was drawn up by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. This document called upon the U.S. government to “end discriminatory policies passed on the basis of legal status in the wake of September 11”
  • NCLR was a signatory to a March 17, 2003 letter exhorting members of the U.S. Congress to oppose Patriot Act II on grounds that it “contain[ed] a multitude of new and sweeping law enforcement and intelligence gathering powers … that would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights.”
  • In 2003, NCLR endorsed the Community Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties campaign, a project that tried to influence city councils to pass resolutions of non-compliance with the provisions of the Patriot Act.
  • A June 2003 issue brief funded by the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and George Soros’s Open Society Institute gave an extensive overview of NCLR’s view of border issues under the heading “Counterterrorism and the Latino Community Since September 11.” Regarding the recent dissolution of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the incorporation of immigration enforcement into the newly formed Department of Homeland Security, the report stated: “Placing the immigration agency within a new mega-national security agency jeopardizes our country’s rich immigration tradition and threatens to make the already poor treatment of immigrants by the federal bureaucracy even worse.”
  • NCLR endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, which was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Post-9/11, NCLR cooperated with groups such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab American Institute to protest the deportation of Arabs living in the United States illegally.
  • NCLR also cooperated with socialist/Marxist groups such as Refuse&Resist!, which likened those lawfully arrested and deported, to the “disappeared” political prisoners of banana republics.

La Raza Protest CA

Current Programs of NCLR

To promote the interests of Hispanics in the United States, NCLR currently engages in research, policy analysis, and advocacy in 8 major program areas:

1) Advocacy & Empowerment

NCLR’s Advocacy & Empowerment (A&E) program aims to help Latinos “assert” their “rightful place” in American society, where they “are suffering from higher rates of unemployment and foreclosure than other communities.” Asserting that “our [Latinos’] voting rights are threatened in states throughout the country,” the A&E program concentrates on “advocacy activities at state and local levels” and seeks to “strengthe[n] Latino participation in the political process.” It does this by “encouraging eligible applicants to become citizens”; “motivating citizens to register and vote”; and “creating a new generation of Latino leaders to educate voters about issues affecting Hispanics and to advocate for local, state, and national policies that will help build a strong Latino community and a stronger country.” Further, the A&E program helps non-citizen Hispanics to become citizens through its “Citizenship, It’s Time!” and “Citizenship Assistance” initiatives, the latter of which provides grants to naturalization programs run by community-based organizations. Similarly, A&E promotes Hispanic voter-registration and voter-mobilization through its “ya es hora ¡VE Y VOTA!” (“It’s Time, Go Vote!”) and Latino Empowerment and Advocacyprojects. Some additional facts:

  • In pursuit of its A&E program goals, NCLR, at the 2008 “Take Back America” conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), proudly announced that it would be joining a number of fellow left-wing organizations in “the most expensive” ($350 million) voter-registration, voter-education, and voter-mobilization effort “in history” during that year’s election season. Other members of the coalition included ACORN, the AFL-CIO, CAF,MoveOn.org, Rock the Vote, and the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund.
  • NCLR opposed the REAL ID Act of 2005, which required that all driver’s-license and photo-ID applicants be able to verify they are legal residents of the United States, and that the documents they present to prove their identity are genuine. According to La Raza, this law “opens the door to widespread discrimination and civil rights violations.”

2) Children & Youth

NCLR’s Children & Youth program was created to represent the interests of this “fastest-growing segment of the American population.” A key component of the program is its Líderes Initiative, a national campaign designed to “build the skills of Latino youth and increase their leadership capacity.”

3) Civil Rights & Justice

NCLR’s Civil Rights & Justice (CRJ) program—founded on the premise that “discrimination severely limits the economic and social opportunities available to Hispanic Americans”—conducts civil rights-related policy analysis and advocacy activities “to promote and protect equality of opportunity in voting, justice issues, education, employment, housing, and health care for all Americans.”

A matter of particular concern to the CRJ program is racial profiling, which, according to La Raza, occurs “when an individual’s race or ethnicity is used to establish a cause for suspicion of a crime.” Such “tactics,” says NCLR, “not only violate civil rights, they also undermine the ability of law enforcement to enforce the law effectively” and cause Hispanics who are targeted to “los[e] trust in the integrity of law enforcement.” To address this issue, NCLR “works with policy-makers, law enforcement, and the community to eliminate the use of racial profiling.”

The CRJ program also focuses heavily on the matter of juvenile justice, lamenting that Hispanic youth: (a) “have disproportionate contact with all stages of the juvenile justice system, from being stopped by law enforcement to their arrest, detention, waiver to adult criminal court, and sentencing”; (b) are “at substantial risk of being detained with adults, which has been shown to lead to increased rates of recidivism and suicide”; and (c) need a range of special “services targeted specifically” toward them, including “greater access to culturally and linguistically competent delinquency-prevention services and alternatives to detention.” Among NCLR’s more noteworthy publications on this subject are: School-to-Prison Pipeline: Zero Tolerance for Latino YouthReauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act: The Impact on Latino YouthLatino Youth in the Juvenile Justice System; and Latino Youth, Immigration, and the Juvenile Justice System.

  • In 2009, NCLR complained that the proposed Gang Abatement and Prevention Act, which sought to punish violent gang crime more harshly, would have “a disproportionate and negative impact on youth of color, particularly Latino youth, who are subjected to racial-profiling, ‘gang enhanced’ sentencing guidelines, and imprisonment in adult facilities where they are abused, assaulted and ultimately groomed into hardened criminals.” Rejecting “punitive measures designed only to punish and not to reform,” La Raza seeks to “shif[t] the emphasis from punishment to prevention and rehabilitation.”

4) Economy & Workforce

NCLR’s Economy & Workforce program promotes policies to “boost Hispanic employment in good jobs, provide safe and fair workplaces, bridge Latino workers’ education and skills gaps, and offer a secure retirement.” One such policy is the Escalera initiative—created by NCLR in collaboration with (and through the support of) the PepsiCo Foundation and PepsiCo, Inc.—which seeks to “eliminate barriers to employment and economic mobility” by means of career exploration, technology skills development, leadership development, personal development, and academic support. In pursuit of a similar end, NCLR’s Career Pathways Initiative aims to steer “low-skilled and limited-English-proficient” adults toward the “green, health care, and customer service sectors.”

5) Education

NCLR’s Education program is dedicated to “increasing educational opportunities, improving achievement, supporting college-readiness, and promoting equity in outcomes for Latinos.” Toward these ends, La Raza offers “capacity-building,” training, and technical assistance to help its Affiliates serve the needs of the Hispanic community “at each critical stage of the education pipeline.”

6) Health & Nutrition

NCLR’s Health & Nutrition (H&N) program seeks to address the “widespread lack of health insurance and [the] inadequate supply of language services [that] currently … prevent Latinos from gaining access to quality care.” It also aims to “eliminate the incidence, burden, and impact of health and environmental problems in Latinos.” In pursuit of these goals, NCLR’s Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation conducts policy analysis and advocacy at the federal level.

  • One of the most significant aspects of the H&N program is its strong opposition “to any legislation which would inhibit immigrant access to health care because of mandates that require inquiry or documentation of immigrant status.” In other words, it favors healthcare benefits for illegal aliens.

7) Immigration

NCLR’s Immigration program calls for “comprehensive immigration reform” that would encourage “the 12 million undocumented people in our country to come forward, obtain legal status, learn English, and assume the rights and responsibilities of citizenship”; “crac[k] down on unscrupulous employers whose practices undermine conditions for all workers”; “unclo[g] legal channels to reunite families and allow future workers to come in with the essential rights and protections that safeguard our workforce”; and enact “proactive measures to advance the successful integration of new immigrants into our communities.”

  • The Immigration program supports the DREAM Act, which would provide a path-to-citizenship for long-term illegal immigrants who first came to the U.S. as minors, have a relatively clean criminal record, hold a high-school diploma or GED, and are not older than age 30. The DREAM Act also contends that illegal immigrants who wish to attend college in their state of residence should be eligible for the same, heavily discounted tuition rates that are available to in-state students who are legal residents.
  • NCLR advocates immigration reform based on a grant of “earned” amnesty that would confer legal status upon illegal aliens.
  • In 1990 NCLR published a report, authored by Cecelia Muñoz, asserting that Congress had a “moral obligation” to repeal the “unconscionable” employer sanctions (against those who hired illegals), which were “inherently discriminatory” and “infringe[d] upon the civil rights of Americans.” The report also advocated “a second legalization program” for illegal immigrants who came to the United States after the enactment of the 1986 amnesty.
  • NCLR strongly opposed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, a welfare-reform bill that: required recipients of certain welfare benefits to begin working after two years of receiving those benefits; placed a lifetime limit of five years on benefits paid by federal funds; and tightened enforcement of child-support compliance. NCLR’s major complaint was the fact that the law banned new legal immigrants from receiving federal public benefits during their first five years in the United States.
  • In 2001, NCLR formed focus groups to study how the American public felt about the word “amnesty”as it pertained to  immigration policy. After the focus groups reported that the public’s reaction was extremely negative, La Raza national director Raul Yzaguirre advised then-Mexican President Vicente Fox to avoid using the term ever again. He urged Fox instead to employ such euphemisms as “regularization,” “legalization,” “normalization,” “permanence,” “earned adjustment,” and “phased-in access to earned regularization.”
  • In 2003, NCLR joined the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in a failed lawsuit the tried to prevent federal authorities from entering immigration information into a national crime database—and to prevent local police officers from accessing that data.
  • NCLR is adamantly opposed to permitting local and state police to enforce immigration laws, on the theory that such officers are not adequately trained in the complexities of those laws and thus are likely to abuse their authority. In 2003 and 2005, for example, La Raza warned that the proposed Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act would “result in higher levels of racial profiling, police misconduct, and other civil rights violations.”
  • In 2006, NCLR opposed what it described as a “punitive” bill that sought to control the flow of people illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Nonetheless, La Raza rejects the notion that it is an “open-borders advocate,” stating that it has “repeatedly recognized the right of the United States, as a sovereign nation, to control its borders.”
  • NCLR opposed President Bush’s signing of the “Secure Fence Act of 2006,” which authorized the construction of 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • At many of the massive “pro-immigration” rallies that NCLR members attended in 2006, their signature slogan was: “La Raza unida nunca sera vencida!” (“The united Race will never be defeated!”)
  • In 2007, NCLR commissioned the Urban Institute to conduct a study on how the children of illegal immigrants are negatively affected when their parents are apprehended in workplace immigration raids. The findings were published in a report titled Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America’s Children, which said that such children commonly exhibit “depression,” “post-traumatic stress disorder,” “separation anxiety,” “aggressive behaviors,” “sleep patterns that are changing,” “changes in appetite,” and “exaggerated mood swings.” One child, said the report, “was diagnosed with having suicidal thoughts.”
  • In 2007, NCLR opposed the state of Oklahoma’s tough, enforcement-first immigration laws, which cut off welfare benefits to illegal aliens, stiffened sanctions against employers who hired illegals, and strengthened cooperation and information-sharing between local and federal authorities.
  • In April 2010, Arizona—a state that had experienced an explosion in serious crimes committed by illegal aliens—signed into law a bill deputizing state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of criminal suspects whose behavior or circumstances seemed to indicate that they might be in the United States illegally. The heart of the law, which explicitly disallowed racial profiling and was a mirror image of longstanding U.S. federal law, was this provision: “For any lawful contact [i.e., instances where an officer questions or detains someone who has violated some law, usually a traffic infraction] made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency … where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.” Citing this law as evidence that many people were now “under attack just for being Latino,” NCLR initiated a boycott against Arizona to discourage other states from enacting similar laws.
  • NCLR portrays illegal immigrants as vital contributors to the American economy. As La Raza staffer Michele Waslin has put it, “Important sectors of the labor market are increasingly dependent on undocumented workers.”
  • NCLR believes that illegal immigrants should be permitted to obtain driver’s licenses, on the theory that such a policy would improve public safety and lower insurance costs.
  • La Raza lawyers have waged a relentless assault on local and national efforts to enforce existing American immigration laws by promoting “sanctuary city” policies that prevent police from checking the immigration status of criminals, verifying resident status in the workplace, or securing the nation’s borders.

8) Wealth Building

NCLR’s Wealth-Building (WB) program, lamenting that “Latino families own just nine cents for every dollar owned by White families,” features a Housing and Community Development component and a Wealth-Building Policy Project devoted to “helping low-income Latino households build wealth through tangible assets, such as homes, cars, and savings.” Specifically, the WB program seeks to help Latinos purchase their first home, avoid foreclosure, access their tax refunds, and make prudent financial decisions. It also lobbies for policy changes that would “hold banks and lenders more accountable to Latino families for their services, protect against deceptive lending practices, and increase access to financial products and decision-making tools.”

  • The foregoing objectives are rooted in the premise that lending institutions commonly try to exploit Latinos. As a logical outgrowth of that premise, NCLR has long pressured banks to lower their qualification standards for home loans to Hispanic borrowers. When large numbers of banks ultimately succumbed to such pressure (which was augmented by similar mandates from the federal government), there was a dramatic spike in the number of subprime loans that were issued to Hispanics (and, for the same reason, to African-Americans). Thus the stage was set for the housing market crisis of 2008, which in turn caused Hispanics as a whole to lose fully two-thirds of their net worth.
    (For details about the correlation between watered-down mortgage-lending standards and the housing-market crisis, click here.)
  • NCLR has also sought to partner with banks that conduct business with illegal aliens.

NCLR’s Charter Schools

NCLR supports a network of some 115 charter schools across the United States, to provide Hispanic children with “a better educational option than the nearby traditional public schools.” A number of these charter schools openly advocate ethnic separatism and anti-American, anti-white attitudes. Some examples:

  • The Mexicayotl Academy in Nogales, Arizona is “structured and developed around the concepts of identity, culture, and language.” It supports local ethnic lobbying efforts “to right social injustices by educating the community and helping create social change.” Under the heading “Greatest Achievements,” the school’s website once listed a visit the school had received from the Marxist academic fraud Rigoberta Menchu.
  • La Academia Semillas del Pueblo is a Los Angeles public school that teaches children “Aztec math” and the Mexican indigenous language of “Nahuatl.” The school’s principal, Marcos Aguilar, is an ethnic separatist who believes that “the White way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction.”
  • The Aztlán Academy in south Tucson, Arizona seeks “to integrate a meaningful Chicano Studies program into [students’] lives, language, and academics, as a means of developing their intellects as well as their pride and self-esteem.” (“Aztlán” is the separatist name for the Southwestern United States—an area that, according to such separatists, rightfully belongs to the government and people of Mexico.)
  • The Dolores Huerta Preparatory High School in Pueblo, Colorado is named after the Latina labor-union activist who is a board member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
  • The Academia Cesar Chavez Charter School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, supports the federal DREAM Act, which would provide a path-to-citizenship for long-term illegal immigrants who first came to the U.S. as minors, have a relatively clean criminal record, hold a high-school diploma or GED, and are not older than age 30. The DREAM Act also contends that illegal immigrants who wish to attend college in their state of residence should be eligible for the same, heavily discounted tuition rates that are available to in-state students who are legal residents.

Aztlan Civil war

Aztlan and the Question of “Reconquista”

According to the late Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Georgia), NCLR teaches that “Colorado, California, Arizona, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and parts of Washington State make up an area known as ‘Aztlán’—a fictional ancestral homeland of the Aztecs before Europeans arrived in North America.” Norwood stated that La Raza views this region as the rightful property of the government and people of Mexico, and thus seeks to bring about a Mexican “Reconquista” (“Reconquest”) of these southwestern states. But such a reconquest “won’t end with territorial occupation and secession,” Norwood added. “The final plan for the La Raza movement includes the ethnic cleansing of Americans of European, African, and Asian descent out of ‘Aztlán.’” Norwood also characterized NCLR as “a radical racist group … one of the most anti-American groups in the country, which has permeated U.S. campuses since the 1960s, and continues its push to carve a racist nation out of the American West.”

John Stone, president of the U.S. Freedom Foundation and former chief of staff to Rep. Norwood, similarly maintains that NCLR has ties to a number of separatist Reconquista groups.

In 2007, La Raza’s website stated explicitly that NCLR’s mission is the “empowerment of our gente [people] and the liberation of Aztlán.”

NCLR, however, says it is a “misconception” to believe that it has ever, at any time, endorsed “the notion of a ‘Reconquista’ or Aztlán.’” 

illegal immigration rally phoenix-july-31-2010

La Raza’s Support of Separatist Groups

While claiming that it “has never supported, and does not support, separatist organizations,” NCLR acknowledges that in 2003 it provided the Georgetown University chapter of MEChA—an openly separatist Chicano student group—with a$2,500 grant. But NCLR defends that grant by asserting that MEChA’s “primary objectives are educational—to help Latino students finish high school and go to college, and to support them while at institutions of higher education.”

NCLR’s Motto

It has been widely reported that NCLR’s official motto is “Por La Raza Todo, Fuera de La Raza Nada,” which means “For The Race Everything, Outside the Race Nothing.” But NCLR says it “unequivocally rejects this statement, which is not and has never been the motto of any Latino organization.”
We can stop hate
The Premise That America Is Racist, Hateful, and Discriminatory

NCLR has succeeded in defining, on its own terms, the parameters of the immigration debate by smearing critics of its agendas as “anti-immigrant” racists. Typical was a 2008 campaign called “We Can Stop the Hate.” Launched by NCLR with the assistance of the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), this campaign was overtly designed to silence critics who raised alarms about mass illegal immigration into the United States, and who opposed amnesty and open borders. The La Raza campaign portrayed such concerns as the “rhetoric of hate groups, nativists, and vigilantes.”

Some additional illustrations of NCLR’s bedrock belief that America is inherently racist and unjust:

  • NCLR calls for lawmakers to expand the coverage of hate-crimes legislation and toughen the penalties therein, “in part because such crimes are often used to deter racial, ethnic, or religious minorities from living where they choose.”
  • NCLR periodically holds educational seminars and roundtables to “expose and explore the causes of discrimination against Afro-Latinos and Indigenous Latinos.”
  • In 1994, NCLR released Out of the Picture, the first extensive content analysis of prime-time TV portrayals of Hispanics. According to NCLR, this production documented “both the severe under representation as well as the excessively negative portrayals of Latinos on network television.”
  • NCLR supports affirmative action (i.e., racial and ethnic preferences) in higher education and the business world.
  • NCLR supports increased funding for “affordable housing” (i.e., taxpayer subsidies for low-income people’s housing costs) and “programs to combat housing discrimination.”
  • NCLR rejects Voter ID laws as “barriers to voting” that disproportionately affect non white minorities and the poor. As such, La Raza denounces such laws as an “absolute disgrace.”
  • NCLR contends that there is a great need for enhanced “gender pay equity” in the workplace, a claim rooted in the demonstrably false premisethat women are routinely paid less than their equally qualified and credentialed male counterparts.

Opposing Assimilation

NCLR opposes legislation that would make English the official language of the United States. Former La Raza president Raul Yzaguirre once declared that “U.S. English”—America’s oldest, largest citizens’-action group dedicated to preserving English as the national tongue—“is to Hispanics, as the Ku Klux Klan is to blacks.”

Strongly supportive of bilingual education and the provision of bilingual ballots for Spanish-speaking voters, NCLR in 1998 joined other left-wing groups in filing a lawsuit designed to prevent Proposition 227, California’s ballot initiative for bilingual-education reform, from becoming state law.

NCLR Leadership and Major Figures

NCLR is governed by a Board of Directors that includes 21 elected members who are “representative of all geographic regions of the United States and all Hispanic subgroups.” The organization also receives guidance from a Corporate Board of Advisors, which consists of senior executives from 24 major corporations and their liaison staff. These corporations are: AT&T, Bank of America, Chevron, Citi, the Coca-Cola Company, Comcast Corporation, ConAgra Foods, Ford Motor Company, General Mills, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s Corporation, MillerCoors LLC, PepsiCo, Prudential, Shell, State Farm Insurance Companies, Time Warner Inc., Toyota Motor North America, UPS, Verizon, Walmart, and Wells Fargo. Moreover, NCLR has an Affiliate Council composed of executive directors and senior executive staff members from 12 community-based organizations affiliated with La Raza.

NCLR’s president since 2005 has been Janet Murguía, who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House from 1994-2000, ultimately serving as deputy assistant to the president. Murguía was subsequently the deputy campaign manager and director of constituency outreach for the Gore/Lieberman presidential campaign of 2000. In 2001, Murguía joined the University of Kansas as executive vice-chancellor for university relations. When Arizona voters in 2004 approved Proposition 200, a public referendum requiring state residents to prove citizenship before registering to vote, and to prove citizenship or legal immigration status before applying for public benefits, Murguia characterized the measure as “anti-immigrant.” Moreover, Murguia contends that “hate speech” should “not be tolerated, even if such censorship were a violation of First Amendment rights.”

la raza illegal aliens racism

Other major figures in NCLR history, in addition to those previously mentioned, include Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (who is a longtime member of La Raza) and Cecilia Munoz (a longtime policy analyst with the organization).

NCLR’s Think Tank

NCLR administers a Policy Analysis Center that it describes as America’s preeminent Hispanic think tank. The Center’s broad-based agenda encompasses such issues as immigration, education, free trade, affordable housing, health policy, and tax reform.

NCLR’s Partners and Allies

NCLR works closely with the American Civil Liberties Union and the the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. It also shares major agendas and values with Latino Justice PRLDF (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Further:

  • NCLR has participated in a series of campaigns in conjunction with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, “calling on all Americans to be tolerant of diversity.”
  • NCLR has participated in a number of joint initiatives with the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, and the National Urban League, to “identify and denounce hate crimes and other acts of intolerance.”
  • NCLR has participated in public-service campaigns with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Children’s Defense Fund, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and other partners to “prevent housing discrimination against minorities, families with children, and individuals with disabilities.”

Viva La Raza Obama

Support From Barack Obama

During his presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama addressed NCLR, lauding the organization for its “extraordinary” work.

Obama NCLR

NCLR’s Funders

NCLR receives more than two-thirds of its funding from corporations and charitable foundations; the rest comes mostly from government sources. Among the foundations that have supported the organization are the Aetna Foundation, Allstate Foundation, the American Express Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the Bank of America Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Fannie Mae Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the HKH Foundation, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

In addition, as of February 2011, some 30 major corporations were officially listed as financial supporters of NCLR. One of the organization’s most noteworthy corporate funders is Citigroup:

  • On March 5, 2003, Citigroup announced a $105 million strategic partnership with NCLR. The core component of this partnership was Citigroup’s pledge to provide up to $100 million to finance the creation of affordable housing and community facilities in areas with large Hispanic populations. Meanwhile, the Citi Foundation awarded NCLR a $5 million grant to support the group’s community-development initiatives in Hispanic neighborhoods.
  • In 2008, Citigroup and the Citi Foundation gave a $1 million grant to NCLR, to support the latter’s efforts to build the capacity of its nearly 300 state and local affiliates nationwide.
  • During 2008-09, the Citi Foundation donated some $1.75 million to NCLR, which used part of the money to fund its Preserving Neighborhoods and Creating Homeowner Opportunities initiative. This program helps NCLR affiliates acquire, maintain, and repurpose foreclosed, vacant, bank-owned properties in urban  communities with high foreclosure rates and large concentrations of Latino residents. The initiative began in Phoenix and later expanded to such places as Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and the District of Columbia.

Defund La Raza Tax Dollars

In 2011, a Judicial Watch investigation revealed that federal funding for NCLR and its affiliates had skyrocketed since President Barack Obama had hired its longtime senior policy analyst, Cecilia Muñoz, to be his director of intergovernmental affairs in 2009. During Muñoz’s first year in the White House, government funds earmarked for La Raza totaled approximately $11 million—far above the $4.1 million figure for the previous year. Fully 60 percent of that $11 million came from the Department of Labor—headed by Hilda Solis, who has close ties to the La Raza movement. Further, in2010 the Department of Housing and Urban Development gave NCLR $2.5 million to fund its housing-counseling program; the Department of Education contributed almost $800,000 to NCLR; and the Centers for Disease Control gave approximately $250,000.

Moreover, NCLR affiliates nationwide collected tens of millions of government grant and recovery dollars in 2010. An NCLR offshoot called Chicanos Por La Causa, for example, saw its federal funding nearly double to $18.3 million following Muñoz’s appointment. Ayuda Inc., which provides immigration law services and guarantees confidentiality to assure illegal aliens that they will not be reported to authorities,took in $600,000 in 2009 and $548,000 in 2010 from the Department of Justice. (The group had not received any federal funding between 2005 and 2008.)

WEBSITE: NCLR

Immigration Reform: The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA)


MECHA

The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), which translates as “Chicano Student Movement,” describes itself as an organization that urges young Chicanos (people of Mexican ancestry living in the United States) to use “higher education” and “political involvement” to promote “cultural and historical pride,” “liberation,” and “self-determination” among their people.

Aztlan Map

MEChA’s earliest roots can be traced back to the Chicano Movement of the late 1960s, which emphasized “brown pride” while rejecting “acculturation and assimilation” into the American mainstream. In that milieu, the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference, organized by an entity called Crusade for Justice, was held in Denver, Colorado in March 1969. Participants in this conference drafted the basic premises for the “Chicana/Chicano Movement” in a seminal document titled El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán (EPEA), which today is required reading for all members of MEChA’s various chapters.

Mecha SDSU aztlan
The term “Aztlán” refers to the territory in the Southwestern United States—including California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, as well as parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado—that Mexico legally ceded to the United States in 1848 via the Treaty of Guadalupe de Hidalgo. But Mexican separatists consider this region to be part of a mythical Aztec homeland that was stolen form its righful owners, the people of Mexico. Reasoning from that premise, MEChA rejects the notion that any Chicano can be considered an illegal immigrant. Indeed, a popular slogan that surfaces at many MEChA rallies is: “We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us.”

Aztlan Liberate or Death

Claiming that “Aztlán belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans,” EPEA stipulates that: (a) the “Chicanas and Chicanos of Aztlán” are a “sovereign” and “indigenous people” who are “not subject to a foreign culture,” and are now “reclaiming the land of our birth (Chicana/Chicano Nation)”; (b) the “bronze (Chicana/Chicano) Nation” is “a union of free pueblos” that view “Chicano nationalism” as “the key to mobilization and organization” in “the Chicana/Chicano Movement”; (c) “cultural values strengthen our identity as La Familia de La Raza [Family of The Race]”; and (d) there is a need for “an independent national political party [to] represent the sentiments of the Chicana/Chicano community.”

Thoroughly steeped in identity politics, EPEA emphatically refuses to recognize the “capricious frontiers” of white society “on the bronze continent”; denounces “the brutal gringo invasion of our territories”; and vows to “struggl[e] against the foreigner ‘gabacho’ [a pejorative term for an English-speaking, non-Hispanic] who exploits our riches and destroys our culture” MEChA’s exclusionary racial attitudes find additional expression in the organization’s slogan: “Por la Raza, todo. Fuera de La Raza, nada.” (This translates to: “For the race, everything. Outside of the race, nothing.”)

In April 1969—a month after the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference—more than 100 Chicano students convened at UC Santa Barbara to draft El Plan de Santa Barbara, a manifesto outlining a strategy for higher education. This plan led directly to the adoption of the name “MEChA” and the creation of politically radical Chicano Studies programs on many college campuses. To this day, MEChA expects Chicano students not merely to enroll in these programs, but to “insure” their “dominant influence” and to “constantly remind” Chicano faculty and administrators “where their loyalty lies.” Viewing the university as “a critical agency in the transformation of the Chicano community,” MEChA calls for an “educational revolution” wherein “our bullets are our books and our victories are an increase in Chicana/Chicano graduates committed to our people’s progress.”

El Plan de Santa Barbara “sees self-determination for the Chicana/Chicano community as the only acceptable way for our people to gain socioeconomic justice”; “arguesthat a strong nationalist identity is a necessary step in building a program of self-determination”; “exhorts Mechistas [MEChA activists] to preserve Chicana/Chicano culture in this culturally diverse society, both in community and on campus”; anddisparages “the Mexican-American (Hispanic),” which is a “politically ineffective” person who “lacks respect for his/her cultural and ethnic heritage” and “seeks assimilation as a way out of her/his ‘degraded’ social status.”

One of MEChA’s more notable co-founders was Lawrence Estrada, who is currently a tenured associate professor at Fairhaven College.

Agendas and Activities

MEChA espouses what it calls an ideology of “Chicanismo,” wherein Chicano purity is held up as a supreme virtue that reflects “self-respect and pride [in] one’s ethnic and cultural background,” and seeks to advance a radical ideology “through action.” In the words of MEChA’s national constitution, “Chicano and Chicana students of Aztlán must take upon themselves the responsibilities to promote Chicanismo within the community, politicizing our Raza with an emphasis on indigenous consciousness to continue the struggle for the self-determination of the Chicano people for the purpose of liberating Aztlán.”

MEChA aims to “dismantle the co-optation of Raza students from becoming ‘corporate Hispanics’ claiming to be leaders of our community with no understanding of El Pueblo Chicano.” Instead, MEChA seeks to “train future community leaders to be consciously committed to serve the people of Aztlán.”

MEChA condemns as “race traitors” those Latinos who fail to adhere to its ideological platform. In 1995, for example, the Voz Fronteriza, the official publication of UC San Diego’s MEChA chapter, ran an editorial excoriating a recently deceased Latino INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] agent as one such traitor. The piece stated that “all the migra [a pejorative term for the INS] pigs should be killed, every single one.”

Promoting the “ancestral communalism” of the Mexican people, MEChA viewscapitalism as an “ethic of profit and competition, greed and intolerance.”

In 2003, MEChA was an organizational endorser of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition. To view a list of additional endorsers, click here.

By supporting continued high levels of Mexican immigration to the United States, MEChA hopes to flood the Southwestern U.S. with enough immigrants—legal and illegal—to establish a numerical majority and achieve, by sheer weight of numbers, the re-partition of that region of the country. This “reconquista,” or reconquest, would represent the fulfillment of El Plan de Aztlán‘s credo: “Where we are a majority we will control; where we are a minority we will represent a pressure group; nationally, we represent one party: La Familia de Raza [the Family of Race].”

aztlan reconquista

It should be noted that such a “reconquista” represents only the first phase of the “La Raza” movement that MEChA supports. The next phase would involve the ethnic cleansing, or expulsion, of Americans of European, African, and Asian descent out of “Aztlán.” As Miguel Perez of Cal State-Northridge’s MEChA chapter once put it, after the establishment of Aztlán, non-Chicanos “would have to be expelled” because “you have to keep power.”

Whites Do Not Have the Right Mecha

Today MEChA is a leading campus advocacy group for the rights of immigrants, both legal and illegal. Indeed, MEChA supports open borders, government benefits (including the right to vote) for non-citizens, state recognition of Spanish as an official language of the U.S., racial preferences and set-asides for Hispanics in education and corporate hiring, taxpayer-funded welfare outlays and public education for illegal aliens, and ultimately, amnesty or a path-to-citizenship for illegals.

MEChA Protest

MEChA attributes most of the problems presently afflicting Chicanos in America to the nation’s allegedly ubiquitous racism. For example, the organization says: “Overall, Chicana/Chicano junior high, high school and college push out rates have risen since 1969, forcing many Chicanas and Chicanos to a life of poverty. These factors along with a growing right wing trend in the nation are combining to work greater hardships on Chicanas and Chicanos. New repressive and racist immigration laws are continuously directed at our Gente.” To address these trends, MEChA is “committed to ending the cultural tyranny suffered at the hands of institutional and systematic discrimination that holds our Gente [People] captive,” and to put an “end to oppression and exploitation of the Chicano/Chicana community.”

While MEChA’s radicalism has been mostly rhetorical, the organization has sometimes resorted to destructive, and even violent, measures. For example:

  • In 1993, when UCLA denied MEChA’s demand that the university’s Chicano Studies Program be accorded departmental status, MEChA activists responded by rampaging through the campus and vandalizing the faculty center, reportedly causing some $500,000 worth of damage.
  • In 1996, MEChA activists assaulted a number of people who were demonstrating against illegal immigration.
  • In 2002, MEChA members stole an entire press run of the California Patriot,the conservative newspaper at UC Berkeley, for publishing a piece that compared MEChA to a neo-Nazi movement. The loss of the newspapers was valued at $2,000. When Patriot staff members subsequently lodged a complaint with the university police department, they received death threats. Meanwhile the university, which was supplying the campus’s MEChA chapter with $20,000 in yearly student activity fees, quietly dropped the case.[1]
  • In May 2006, MEChA activists destroyed some 5,000 copies of the Campus Courier, a student newspaper at Pasadena City College, because of what they considered the paper’s inadequate coverage of a MEChA-sponsored event.

Anti-Semitism has also been evident in some of MEChA’s activities over the years. A printed flyer promoting a 1998 MEChA youth conference at California Polytechnic State University, for example, dubbed the school “Cal Poly State Jewniversity” and referred to New York as “Jew York.” Moreover, MEChA has been linked to La Voz de Aztlán (The Voice of Aztlán), a Chicano webzine that regularly publishes articles attacking Jews, Zionism, and Israel.

Over the years, MEChA has found many creative ways to emphasize its contempt for American traditions and, conversely, its solidarity with America’s enemies. For example:

  • It has held separate Chicano graduation ceremonies on various college campuses.
  • It has protested Columbus Day, on the rationale that the transplantation of European culture to the New World represented a catastrophe for the indigenous peoples of the region.
  • The websites of some MEChA chapters are peppered with pictures of Che Guevara or Subcomandante Marcos—the masked figurehead of Mexico’s Marxist Zapatista guerillas.

Today MEChA is a potent force on school campuses nationwide: the organization boasts upward of 400 chapters in universities across the U.S., including some 100 inCalifornia alone. It has also established a number of chapters in public high schools, encouraging its young supporters to participate in protests and marches. Moreover, MEChA co-sponsors the Academia Semillas del Pueblo Charter School, a Hispanic K-8 facility based in Los Angeles. Marcos Aguilar, the school’s founder and principal,served as MEChA’s education committee coordinator from 1989-91. Adamantly opposed to Chicanos’ racial integration with white society, Aguilar says: “We don’t want to drink from a white water fountain; we have our own wells and our natural reservoirs and our way of collecting rain in our aqueducts.” Advising Chicanos toeschew “white culture and white supremacy,” he warns that “the white way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction.”

Over the years, several prominent U.S. politicians have emerged from MEChA’s ranks. For example:

  • Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa once served as president of a MEChA chapter at UCLA.

    Antonio Villaraigosa (then, Tony Villar) leading a protest to include the Communist organization "Committee to Free Los Tres" on the Steering Committee of the Chicano Studies Center.  UCLA campus, May 23, 1974.

    Antonio Villaraigosa (then, Tony Villar) leading a protest to include the Communist organization “Committee to Free Los Tres” on the Steering Committee of the Chicano Studies Center. UCLA campus, May 23, 1974.

  • Cruz Bustamante, the former lieutenant governor of California, was a member of MEChA as a student at Fresno State College.
  • Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva belonged to the University of Arizona’s MEChA chapter during his student days.

In 2003, MECHA’s Georgetown University chapter received a $2,500 grant from the National Council of La Raza.

NEXT:  Immigration Reform: NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA (NCLR)

Immigration Reform: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

MALDEF logo

Founded in 1968 with a $2.2 million seed grant from the Ford Foundation, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) describes itself as “the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization.” Its mission is to “promot[e]social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access.” The intended beneficiaries of these efforts are Latinos, whom MALDEF seeks to “bring … into the mainstream of American political and socio-economic life.”

MALDEF was the brainchild of Latino activist and lawyer Peter Tijerina, a member of the San Antonio, Texas chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens(LULAC). In the early 1960s, Tijerina grew disaffected with LULAC’s assimilationist approach to immigration issues. Instead, he was inspired by the example of radical Latino activists who were coming to prominence during the cultural ferment of that decade. Preaching about “Brown Power” and “Chicano Power,” they urged their fellow Latinos to embrace their ethnic identity, to reject assimilation, and to confront America’s supposedly racist and oppressive system as well as their ethnic counterparts who betrayed the cause through assimilation. For example, Tijerina was galvanized by the example of Latino militant Reies Tijerina (no relation), a New Mexico-based preacher who led a series of violent actions in the 1960s to occupy land that he claimed rightfully belonged to Mexico but had been stolen by “Anglo” ranchers and lawyers.

Seeking to emulate that model, Peter Tijerina conceived the idea for a more confrontational alternative to LULAC. In 1967 he approached the Ford Foundation to ask for support in setting up a new Chicano rights organization. It was, on the face of it, an unusual appeal. Despite an often-difficult immigrant experience, Hispanics in the United States had never been subjected to the kind of systemic racism suffered by African-Americans. While Mexican schoolchildren were often segregated from whites in states like Texas and California, such segregation was not sanctioned by law; Jim Crow laws did not apply to Mexican Americans. Black leaders consequently took issue with the new Latino activists’ claims that the plight of Mexicans demanded the intervention of a civil rights organization.

Nevertheless, the Ford Foundation’s leadership embraced Tijerina’s request, accepted his claims, and officially came to view Mexicans in America as an oppressed minority in need of a new advocacy group to defend them. Ford president McGeorge Bundy formulated the foundation’s new radical view of the Mexican-American community—and by implication of America itself—in a statement equating the situation of Mexican Americans with that of former black slaves who had suffered more than a half century of legal segregation in the South and were systematically discriminated against across the country: “In terms of the legal enforcement of rights, American citizens of Mexican descent are now where the Negro community was a quarter-century ago.” On this premise, the Ford Foundation in 1968 granted nearly $2.2 million (to be dispensed over a five-year period) to Tijerina’s organization, MALDEF.

During the first three decades of MALDEF’s existence, the Ford Foundation supplied almost all of the group’s funding—a total of more than $25 million. Ford’s support also provided the radical MALDEF with a mainstream imprimatur, thereby helping the organization draw additional millions from foundations like Carnegie and Rockefeller and from corporations like Anheuser-Bush, Coca Cola, AT&T and Verizon, among many others. As a result, MALDEF, which had started as a fringe civil-rights group (in San Antonio) with no national resonance, became a nationally influential advocacy organization with regional offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Chicago, and Washington, DC; a satellite office in Sacramento; and program offices in Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Houston. Today MALDEF has net assets of approximately $6.8 million, an annual budget of $4.2 million, and a staff of 75 (including 22 attorneys).

Even more notable than its size is what MALDEF—with Ford’s backing—has been able to accomplish. Much of the organization’s policy agenda has been passed into law—whether in the form of federally funded bilingual education programs, in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants, the granting of driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status, or the establishment of “sanctuary cities.” And because of the group’s ever-growing stature in the pantheon of American immigration groups, MALDEF officials have been called to testify at Congressional hearings dozens of times since the 1970s.

Just as significantly, MALDEF has played a major role in: (a) radically transforming the immigration debate in America, fostering what has become the widespread acceptance of direct attacks on the very idea of national sovereignty; (b) the de facto elimination of any requirement for citizenship rights; and (c) the casual dismissal of all critics as “anti-immigrant” nativists, racists, and “McCarthyites.” For example:

  • MALDEF co-founder Mario Obledo said in 1998: “California is going to be a Hispanic state and anyone who doesn’t like it should leave. They should go back to Europe.”
  • In 2008, MALDEF joined the George Soros-funded Media Matters and Center for American Progress in supporting the National Council of La Raza’s “We Can Stop the Hate” campaign, which was designed to silence critics who raised alarms about mass illegal immigration into the United States and who opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants. Disparaging those critics as “hate groups, nativists, and vigilantes,” the campaign made no attempt to answer their substantive concerns—for instance, the presence of an estimated 12-20 million illegal immigrants in the country; the budget-breaking economic burdens placed on social services and education provided by municipalities and states; the disproportionate crime and gang activity associated with illegal immigrants; or the fact that illegal immigration is perceived by Hispanic radicals as a way to reclaim the Southwestern United States for Mexico. (For an overview of this “reconquista” agenda, click here.)
  • MALDEF contends that those who wish to make English the official language of the United States are “motivated by racism and anti-immigrant sentiments”; that those who favor sanctions against employers reliant on illegal labor, seek to discriminate against “brown-skinned people”; that “fear and prejudice” is chiefly what animates those who oppose the distribution of driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants; and that people who call for the enforcement of immigration laws are acting out of “racism and xenophobia.”

In the process of pushing (along with allied organizations such as the National Council of La Raza) the mainstream American debate on immigration to the left, MALDEF has helped to radicalize Hispanic groups that at one time were distinguished by their political moderation. A prime example is LULAC, whose traditional approaches to immigration and citizenship had offended radicals like Peter Tijerina and inspired them to create MALDEF. Whereas LULAC and other liberal groups had once touted the virtues of patriotism, legal immigration, and cultural assimilation, by the 1980s that view of citizenship had become the province of so-called “reactionaries.” Echoing the MALDEF/LaRaza rhetoric of Chicano separatism, LULAC officials now stridently declared, “We cannot assimilate! We will not assimilate!”

MALDEF La Raza

Through its advocacy campaigns, MALDEF has radically distorted the concept of citizenship rights, transforming them into “human rights” as though the establishment of such rights was not contingent upon the existence of a nation-state and polity committed to them. These rights, once reserved for actual citizens and legal residents, are today widely presumed to apply to also those in the U.S. illegally with no commitment to preserving them. As former MALDEF president Vilma Martinez has said, “Our definition of Mexican-American has expanded to encompass not only the citizen, but also the permanent resident alien, and the undocumented alien.”

Although MADLEF professes a commitment to the expansion of opportunities for Latinos, that commitment wavers observably whenever certain Latinos deviate, even if only hypothetically, from the organization’s uncompromising support for unrestricted immigration. Thus, in 2001 and in subsequent years as well, MALDEF declared against the nomination of Miguel Estrada, a Honduran immigrant, to the Washington, DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Among its objections, MALDEF cited the possibility that Estrada might fail to “protect the labor and employment rights” of “undocumented workers.” In January 2005, MALDEF similarly opposed the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as U.S. Attorney General, expressing concern that he might allow states to enforce federal immigration laws.

MALDEF Unions

MALDEF’s Top Priorities Today

MALDEF’s chief social and political concerns today are the following:

Immigration: MALDEF’s Truth in Immigration campaign asserts that: “Political pundits, candidates for elected office, media networks, anti-immigrant organizations, and hate groups consistently disseminate negative myths about [Latino] immigrants that poison the atmosphere for immigrants and all Americans.” These “dehumanizing anti-immigrant stereotypes,” says MALDEF, “generate increased bigotry and violence.”

Another MALDEF initiative, titled Immigrant Integration, calls for “investments” of taxpayer dollars “to train and educate English language learners and assist [them in] transition into their new communities.” To this end, MALDEF has led a coalition of more than 200 local and national organizations “in support of legislation that invests in English language acquisition opportunities for adults and children; creates incentives for businesses to educate their workers and be a part of the integration of immigrants; and provides resources to help communities bring together key stakeholders.”

Trumpeting the economic contributions of illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States, MALDEF maintains that America’s “failed immigration policy … has resulted in a complete lack of legal recognition of millions of immigrants who are the backbone of the U.S. economy … doing the jobs that U.S. citizens and residents do not want.” To address this problem, MALDEF has exhorted Congress to “considerlegalization” for all “undocumented persons living and working here in the U.S.”

In 1994 MALDEF strongly opposed California’s Proposition 187—a referendum that would have denied government-funded education, health care and social services to illegal immigrants in that state—which was passed with the support of 59% of California voters. But following its passage, Prop 187 was immediately subjected to legal challenges, and a district court overturned the new law by judicial fiat. When the state of California initiated an appeal of that decision, MALDEF put a great deal of legal and political pressure on then-governor Gray Davis, eventually forcing the state to drop the appeal. Following that resolution, MALDEF openly trumpeted the large role it had played in winning “this victory of basic human and civil rights.”

MALDEF has sought not only “to expand access to driver’s licenses without regard to immigration status,” but also to gain official U.S. acceptance of Matricula Consular cards—the fraud-prone ID cards issued by the Mexican government—which are frequently used by illegal immigrants as a substitute for American identification documents. A CNS News report states: “The Matricula Consular has been under scrutiny by various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on the ground that the authenticity of the documents used to obtain the Matricula cannot be accurately verified.”

MALDEF steadfastly opposes the use of local and state police personnel to enforce federal immigration law, citing concerns about racial profiling and the disparity of enforcement against Mexican illegals. “The reason that we don’t want state and local police involved in immigration enforcement … it’s very, very bad for public safety,”said former MALDEF immigration-rights attorney Katherine Culliton. “If immigrants are afraid that they may get deported, they don’t report crimes. We know of cases of domestic violence where people don’t call. The overwhelming problem is that when immigrants don’t report crimes because they are afraid, then we’re all a lot less safe.”

When the Arizona legislature in 2010 passed SB 1070, a law making illegal immigration a state crime and giving state police broader powers to detain illegal immigrants when they were stopped for an unrelated infraction, MALDEF pronounced the law “unacceptable.” Critics who followed MALDEF’s lead similarly lambasted SB 1070 as intolerant and “draconian” in its supposed subversion of rights. Almost without exception, the national Democratic Party adhered to the MALDEF line, with Colorado Congressman Jared Polis going so far as to declare that the law was “reminiscent” of Nazi Germany and likening Arizona to a “police state.” The spirit of these charges was echoed by the Obama administration, which went on the warpath against the Arizona law. The President himself claimed that SB 1070 would “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans,” while the Justice Department launched a lawsuit to prevent the law from going into effect. In July 2010, a federal judge bowed to MALDEF’s demands and blocked key provisions of the law.

In keeping with its campaign against local enforcement of federal immigration laws, MALDEF has promoted “sanctuary city” policies that prevent police from checking the immigration status of criminals, verifying resident status in the workplace, or securing the nation’s borders. MALDEF’s opposition to border-enforcement efforts is so effective that it routinely trumps national security. For example:

  • In 1994, MALDEF condemned Operation Gatekeeper, a U.S. government program intended to restore integrity to a portion of the California-Mexico border, across which many thousands of illegal aliens were streaming each year. Condemning this program for callously “diverting” illegal border-crossers “from California to the harsh and dangerous Arizona desert,” MALDEF charged that Americans who opposed unrestricted immigration were motivated largely by “racism and xenophobia.”
  • After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, MALDEF spearheaded a protest campaign against Operation Tarmac, a federal crackdown on illegal aliens working in secure sections of the nation’s airports. According to MALDEF, such law-enforcement efforts amounted to “actions that harm the civil rights of Latinos rather than protect them.”
  • MALDEF was a signatory to a March 17, 2003 letter exhorting members of the U.S. Congress to oppose Patriot Act II on grounds that it contained “a multitude of new and sweeping law enforcement and intelligence gathering powers … that would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights.”
  • During approximately the same time period, MALDEF endorsed the goals of the California-based Coalition for Civil Liberties, which tried to influence city councils nationwide to pass resolutions of noncompliance with the provisions of the Patriot Act.
  • In 2004, MALDEF emerged as a leading champion of the Civil Liberties Restoration Act, which, under the rubric of promoting “our nation’s safety,” sought to impede the ability of federal authorities as well as state and local law agencies to enforce immigration laws.
  • In December 2006, MALDEF—in conjunction with the Hispanic National Bar Association, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials—called on U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to place a moratorium on work site raids designed to apprehend illegal aliens.

Hate Crimes: Asserting that “hate crimes against Latinos have risen 40%” in recent times, MALDEF laments that this “national epidemic” and “wave of hatred” is “spurred each day by hate speech, distortion of facts, and anti-immigrant sentiment expressed on cable shows, local radio shows and across the airwaves.” To counter those voices, MALDEF exhorts Congress to pass national legislation such as the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act.”

Economic Recovery: In 2009, MALDEF pledged to “work with partners in Congress and the [newly installed] Obama Administration to ensure that full economic recovery reaches the Latino community.” Toward that end, the organization staunchly supported the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, or stimulus bill, which Obama signed into law in 2009. In fact, MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza both helped the Obama Administration and Congress to draft that legislation, always with an eye toward “ensur[ing] that the concerns of Latino workers and families were addressed.” Among the bill’s key provisions, said MALDEF, were a variety of taxpayer-funded programs that would be “helpful to Latino families,” such as “an expanded Make Work Pay credit that assists low-income workers”; “the expansion and modernization of unemployment insurance”; “significant resources for state stabilization funds, [to] ensure that critical state programs and benefits remain available”; and “large investments in job training and education.” MALDEF lauded, in particular, House Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) for their efforts to include pro-Latino provisions in the stimulus bill.

Voting Rights: MALDEF’s top public-policy priority is to help Latinos and other “historically disenfranchised populations” gain “unimpeded access to the polls, regardless of national origin or language ability”; to “enhance Latino influence in the political process” by putting more ballots into their hands. However, MALDEF unequivocally opposes Voter ID and proof-of-citizenship requirements for those voters. In 2006, for instance, the organization filed a lawsuit challenging an Arizona law—passed by ballot initiative two years earlier—that required voters to prove their citizenship before casting their ballots.

MALDEF likewise opposes laws that bar convicted felons from voting in federal elections. Such laws, says the organization, disproportionately “disenfranchise” blacks and Latinos, who are convicted of such crimes at higher rates than whites. In an effort to ensure that “the most fundamental right of our democracy—the right to vote,” is made available to convicted felons, MALDEF in January 2003 launched a Right to Vote Campaign along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, Demos, the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, the People for the American Way Foundation, and the Sentencing Project.

MALDEF also opposes the reconfiguration of voting districts in a manner that would “dilut[e] the votes of hundreds of thousands of Latinos.” In other words, it favors the creation and retention of districts wherein Latinos constitute a numerical majority or a plurality, thereby enabling Latinos as a distinct demographic bloc to elect whichever congressional representatives they want.

MALDEF redistricting_usa

MALDEF equates English-language ballots with the racist literacy tests that were once used to disenfranchise black voters in the American South. This perspective dates back to the early 1970s, when MALDEF filed (and won) a voting rights lawsuit on behalf of Puerto Ricans living in New York. The suit argued that English literacy tests discriminated against Puerto Ricans as a class of people. The courts agreed, allowing MALDEF to establish the radical legal precedent that holding elections in English—the official language of the United States—was an act of oppression that disenfranchised Hispanic voters. By 1975, groups like MALDEF were successfully campaigning to amend the 1965 Voting Rights Act and forcing jurisdictions with significant numbers of Hispanic residents to provide voting materials in Spanish. Instead of Hispanics integrating into American culture, as had been the traditional approach, they were now to be granted special treatment on the basis of their ethnicity—a key pillar of the multicultural agenda.

Fair Employment Practices: MALDEF contends that “discrimination continues to affect Latino workers at all levels of the economy,” in the form of “a hostile work environment”; “the denial of promotions”; “being forced to work unpaid ‘overtime’”; having “limited … opportunities for advancement”; and being “paid at substantially lower rates than non-Latino workers.”

As a partial remedy for the aforementioned problems, MALDEF supports affirmative action in hiring and promotion practices, and advocates the “consideration of race and gender in the awarding of public contracts.”

By contrast, MALDEF opposes the Electronic Employment Verification System (E-Verify), the Social Security Administration’s means of sending “No-Match” letters to business owners whose employees’ names and corresponding Social Security Numbers do not match the SSA’s records.

Education: Education has long been a leading concern of MALDEF. In the 1980s, for instance, the organization threw its legal clout behind the claims of illegal immigrants in Texas, who demanded a right to a free education at the taxpayers’ expense. In a successful lawsuit, MALDEF argued that denying the plaintiffs this “right” was unconstitutional.

MALDEF has also brought suit against public colleges and universities, charging that they were wrongly denying admission to illegal immigrants due to their “perceived immigration status.” In a corollary campaign, MALDEF has sued to compel state universities to allow illegal-immigrant students who reside in-state, to pay the same discounted tuition rates as their in-state legal counterparts.

MALDEF has repeatedly filed lawsuits aimed at forcing states to guarantee the availability of bilingual education in public schools, and has sought to suppress successful ballot initiatives—such as California Proposition 227 and Arizona’s Proposition 203—that would ban bilingual education programs which have long proven to be ineffectual. After California voters passed Prop 227 in 1998, for example, MALDEF joined the ACLU in filing for a temporary restraining order to keep the state’s largest school district from implementing the will of the voters.

MALDEF has also waged campaigns against the use of standardized tests to evaluate student achievement and abilities. In the late 1990s, for instance, the organization filed a class action suit against Texas to prevent that state’s schools from conditioning a high-school diploma on a student’s ability to pass a basic academic achievement test, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. Attorneys for MALDEF argued, unsuccessfully, that because some students, including a quarter of Hispanic students, failed the test, it was “unfair to all students,” and to “minority students” in particular.

The same mindset has long guided MALDEF’s activism in the realm of higher education as well. Indeed, the organization has commonly sought, by means of lawsuits and legislative proposals, to prevent universities from factoring standardized test scores into their admissions decisions. In 2004, for example, MALDEF filed suit against California State University, claiming that the school was “misus[ing] standardized test scores” and was thereby creating an admissions system that was “dysfunctional and unfair” to minority students. In support of that accusation, MALDEF adduced the fact that the university “attaches great weight to an applicant’s SAT or ACT score.”

One of MALDEF’s top priorities is to “ensure that students have equal access to educational opportunities regardless of income, nationality, or language skills.” Toward that end, the organization seeks to enforce compliance with “desegregation”decrees in various cities across the United States. Typically, such decrees are mandates for the reassignment and transportation of students to different schools, so as to change the racial makeup of the student bodies.

Leadership: Since 1989, MALDEF’s Parent School Partnership Program “has empowered parents and community leaders throughout the nation to become change agents in their communities” and to “become effective advocates in improving their children’s educational attainment.” In addition, MALDEF’s Law School Scholarship Program awards scholarships to several students each year based on their “past achievement,” “potential for achievement,” “financial need,” and “commitment to serve the Latino community through law.”

Funding and Leadership

MALDEF’s funding derives primarily from a core group of corporations and large foundations, most notably the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. It has also received considerable support from the Ahmanson Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Verizon Foundation. Only 2% of MALDEF’s revenues come from grassroots donations.

MALDEF is headed by a president and general counsel and is governed by a 30-member national board of directors. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization operates four regional offices. These are located in Los Angeles, San Antonio,Chicago, and Washington DC.

MALDEF Website:  MALDEF

NEXT:  Immigration Reform: The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA)

“Immigration” Reform: The Players – The Objective

Four of the main Hispanic pressure groups, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the National Council of La Raza (La Raza) and the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), are united in their main objectives. They promote an agenda of racial and ethnic consciousness. They all want more immigration of their own people into the United States. They want to stop deportation of illegal aliens and want to provide American citizen’s rights, including the right to vote, to non-citizens. They promote Spanish as the official language in areas dominated by Hispanics. They believe that Americans must assimilate to Hispanic culture and language. They believe this is already their land and have no need to become citizens, learn English or assimilate in any way. By proclaiming the southwestern United States, Aztlán, they believe all those of Hispanic decent are already citizens. It appears that anyone who disagrees with that agenda is considered a racist.

Next I will explain the Four Main Groups, their history and their roll in “Immigration Reform”

Immigration Reform
NEXT:  Immigration Reform: LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS (LULAC)

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