Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a blogger call hosted by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguia. The basic point of the call was to highlight the new and improved NCLR website and to let us know that NCLR will be engaging more with social media. Murguia has even started tweeting, and you can follow her here. Overall, I think that this is a positive step for NCLR. Last year, NCLR started a series of “fireside chats,” getting its leadership’s feet wet with social media. I have been encouraging Latino organizations to engage with social media since at least 2008.
The real highlights of the call occurred at the end in the question and answer session. Some points to be noted are as follows:
- When asked about the latest talk to repeal the 14th amendment (birthright citizenship), Murguia did offer that this is “extremely troubling” and acknowledged that positions like this are “on the extreme.” She did reiterate that the constitution establishes that anyone born in the US is a citizen.
- I asked Murguia a question about pursuing the DREAM Act as an incremental policy separate from comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), acknowledging the work that some of the DREAM Activists are doing, and she offered this:
- “…We have been very much in support of the DREAM Act. We have been out there to partner with them to advance reform (referring to youth advocates that I mentioned in my question). If we can see movement on the DREAM Act in the Senate, that would be important. We would want to see some sort of action in the Senate to see if we can do just that. We would still like to see CIR accomplished, but we would like to see the DREAM Act passed.”
As a follow up, I also asked the following question off the call. In seeing footage of what has been happening in Arizona, I have noticed that the public face of NCLR hasn’t been profiled or out front and center. So this question gets to that point:
“Has Ms. Murguia attended or led any of the protests that were taking place in Arizona in recent weeks? Just last week, there were caravans from around the country going to Arizona to show solidarity with the people in who were protesting SB 1070 just prior to when the law was scheduled to go into effect. We have had musicians, former Arizona state senator Alfredo Gutierrez (who was arrested), and religious leaders engage with the protesters in Arizona and receive press coverage for it. Was Janet Murguia there, and if not, does she see herself taking a more public role to express solidarity with those who are in the belly of the beast?”
And this was the provided answer via Lisa Navarette, NCLR’s VP of Communications:
“Thank you for your question. NCLR has been a highly visible presence on the issue of SB 1070 and Arizona. Janet Murguía led a multi-ethnic coalition of organizations in calling for a boycott of Arizona back in May. Since then, she has also been focused on rallying national support for the boycott and other efforts to push back on SB 1070, including asking Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All-Star game. It was also a major theme and topic of discussion at our recent Conference in San Antonio where thousands of postcards and texts were sent in opposition to SB 1070. NCLR staff have been a frequent and consistent presence in the media on this issue.
Most important is NCLR’s local work with our Affiliates in Arizona and our Board Chair Danny Ortega, a very prominent attorney in Phoenix, who is a key leader in anti-SB 1070 work. He is one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Arizona and has been a top spokesperson on the issue in the state. NCLR also has several well-known and respected Latino organizations in the state as Affiliates. They have been key supporters of the protests, the lawsuits, and other anti-SB1070 activities and have committed themselves to engaging in extensive voter education and civic engagement efforts. And while we applaud the tremendous court victory last week, our work in Arizona will continue until this law is repealed.”
My analysis of the answers provided:
I think that Ms. Murguia walks a fine line in publicly advocating for the DREAM Act separately from comprehensive immigration reform. The reality is that we are not likely to see passage of comprehensive immigration reform in the current session of Congress. We are coming up on the August recess when law makers give themselves a whole month off to play, engage with constituents, campaign, etc. Accomplishing CIR at this stage of the game is unlikely given the upcoming November elections. Murguia and her organization do support the DREAM Act though, and I believe at the end of the day, they see that accomplishing this incremental reform would be better than accomplishing nothing on immigration.
As for my off the call question, it appears that Ms. Murguia has not been in Arizona since SB 1070 was signed by Governor Brewer, but her organization has been coordinating a response and working with its affiliates to push back against this law. I have even blogged about Murguia’s Washington Post opinion piece on moving next year’s MLB All-Star game out of Arizona.
I think that the Latino community needs to see more of Janet Murguia, the leader of our most prominent civil rights organization, in this battle and engaging with bloggers will help get her message out. Seneca has often blogged about the issues in Latino leadership and has noted that we don’t have Latino political or national civil society leaders addressing the community on the Sunday network television shows. I think that Murguia would most likely be invited by the traditional media or more widely recognized if she did attend some of these protests and actions that the grassroots are involved in. It would be a positive show of solidarity on her part, and it would endear her to the grassroots activists. Often, I hear rumblings from community organizers and grassroots folks that there is a disconnect between the Washington, DC establishment vs. what is happening on the street or in the community outside of the beltway. Murguia could help ameliorate those sentiments. I keep thinking about the African-American community’s response to the Jena 6 case three years ago as an example.
What are your thoughts? And are you pleased with the progress NCLR is making in shaping the current immigration debate for our community? What do you like or dislike about their approach?