An Obama Legacy Already?: Cecilia Muñoz

Univision, as reported by NewAmericaMedia, has an important November 29 2008 story that has not yet made the networks or major Internet sites:

President-elect Barack Obama announced that Cecilia Muñoz will serve as director of intergovernmental affairs, coordinating the White House’s relations with local and state governments, reports Univision. Muñoz, 46, has been at the forefront of the movement for immigrant rights. Born in Detroit to Bolivian immigrants, she currently serves as senior vice president for the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). In 2000, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in recognition of her work on immigration and civil rights.

¡Viva Obama! This is one sign of the difference that President-Elect Obama is already beginning to make in this society. He has appointed too many centrist and conventional white political types, which many progressives have trouble accepting, but gradually he is also appointing some progressive leaders whose views have been marginalized and attacked in the power centers of Washington for a long time. Muñoz is an example of how some influential Americans of color may now be listened to at the highest levels of this society, for the first time in a long time. Not only is she an immigrants rights’ advocate, but she works as a leader in one of the key Latino civil rights organizations in the United States, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), an organization whose anti-discrimination and other efforts and even name have angered many whites and some others. Here is the website listing some of their important research publications. Note the political courage that this took on Obama’s part. Here is the open letter that their president, Janet Murguía, recently wrote about the activism and goals of this organization in response to critics:

Those familiar with the work of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) know that we are the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., and that we are an American institution committed to strengthening this great nation by promoting the advancement of Latino families. Our mission is to create opportunities and open the door to the American Dream for Latino and other families.

We proudly represent nearly 300 Affiliates—community-based organizations providing a range of essential services to millions of Latinos and others in need. Since 1997, NCLR and its Affiliates have helped more than 22,000 low-income Hispanic families purchase their first homes. In addition, NCLR’s network of 115 charter schools provides quality education to more than 25,000 Latino children every year. The health clinics we helped build and the lay health educators we trained provided care and information about prevention and detection of serious illnesses to nearly 100,000 people in 2006. Our Affiliates are working every day to help Hispanic immigrants integrate fully into American society by providing English-language classes, civics courses, and naturalization assistance. . . . We recognize that some people might be confused about our organization’s name, our mission, and our work. Much of this is understandable. Compared to some of our venerable counterparts in the civil rights and advocacy community, we are a relatively young institution representing Latinos, a historically disadvantaged and often misunderstood ethnic minority. We have a Spanish term in our name, “La Raza” (meaning “the people” or “community”), which is often mistranslated. Furthermore, we are engaged in some of the most controversial issues of our time, which we believe is essential if we are to stay true to our mission.

Obama’s legacy on racial and ethnic matters may dramatic, or so it already appears.


  1. Good for Obama. As a native Texan, I’ve long felt that immigration is misunderstood by folks not living in one of the four border states. The issue is much more complex than building fences, visas, or drug smuggling. Immigration is an issue of human rights and someone with a comprehensive understanding of the issue can better help state and local governments deal with this ongoing matter.

  2. Except @King Politics, it doesn’t appear from the description contained in the post that she will have anything to do with immigration and further, she isn’t from a border state. Were you suggesting that being from elsewhere brings a fresh or a misunderstood perspective?

    We hope this is a good appointment. I trust Obama implicitly to make sound decisions because his actions thus far have warranted it. So it is with this same sense of confidence that i welcome this pick. But i feel like we must caution against applauding a pick chiefly because the person represents a certain minority group.
    This seems inherently unfair to Obama and to the person in question. We needn’t look too far back in the rear view mirror to see Alberto Gonzalez and Alphonso Jackson. Two more Bush cronies who were no more suited for their appointments than for jail cells. Minority appointment isn’t enough. It must be the proper one. Here’s to hoping Ms Munoz fits that twin bill. Since i have no idea what the intergovernmental director of affairs is or does it is difficult to accurately assess the significance of this appointment and whether Ms Munoz is best suited for the job.

  3. I think what Brady, Bluestmoon and others who cling to the tired, “I never owned slaves”, argument fail to consider is that the struggle for equality was not magically won upon the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

    It has ONLY been 40 years since the end of the Civil Rights Movement, per se, yet this is no where near sufficient to heal the wounds of nearly 250 years of slavery, racialization/racial indoctrination, subjugation and genocide.

    To deny this is equivalent to complicentcy in its persistence.

  4. Brittany

    I think Obama is making steps to ensure that he has a diverse cabinet and white house appointees who are more than prepared to take on the position. What I like about Obama’s approach to picking cabinet members as opposed to past Presidents (or politicians) is that he is not just nominating people of color to say he has a diverse cabinet, he is nomiating people that are excellent for the positions and bringing in a new pool of talented people who have been often overlooked or may have never been considered in other administrations.


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