Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, made some powerful observations about the immigration debate during a recent appearance on C-SPAN. She was interviewed by Brian Lamb, the network's founder and former CEO.
The Kansas-born Murguia spoke warmly about her family background, especially the teachings of her parents, who came to the United States from Mexico in the 1950s and raised six children. Two of her siblings are now federal judges, while a third is an attorney who sits on the board of trustees of the W.H. Kellogg Foundation. "They taught us the importance of family, of faith, of community, hard work, sacrifice, honesty, integrity," she said.
On the volatile issue of race in the immigration debate, Murguia said:
We have to be careful to not assume that because some people oppose immigration reform or certain approaches to immigration reform, that they are racist. That is not an assumption that we want to make at NCLR. I understand that people can have honest disagreements about how we reform our immigration system. ... This conversation doesn't have to be about race. I would like to exclude that element from this conversation. It's been hard to find a safe place to have that conversation, where it's just about, you know, the merits of this issue and where we can get to common ground.
Those are admirable sentiments. Murguia and NCLR followed a radically different path several years ago when they partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations to launch a campaign to label the Federation for American Immigration Reform as a hate group and then spread the taint to the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA. The theme was that the groups were so tainted by hatred and racism that they should be excluded from the national debate.
Here is an excerpt from the CIS Backgrounder on the campaign:
La Raza president and CEO Janet Murguia personally led the attack. Appearing on the Lou Dobbs show in early 2008, she cited the SPLC's designation and declared, "FAIR is a known, documented hate group." ...
The SPLC's move was not an act of conscience. Nor was it the bark of a public-interest watchdog. It was a publicity stunt in the service of the National Council of La Raza, which was about to launch a campaign intended to drive FAIR from the arena of public debate on national immigration policy.
The law center, while claiming to be non-partisan, served as a propaganda arm of La Raza's effort to shape immigration policy. The NCLR has been grateful for the assistance. The website of its "Stop the Hate" campaign lists the SPLC as one of its six allied organizations.
The campaign's strategy was to portray FAIR as an extremist organization, so tainted by hatred and racism that it should be excluded from the public discussion of immigration. La Raza president and CEO Janet Murguia personally led the attack. Appearing on the Lou Dobbs show in early 2008, she cited the SPLC's designation and declared, "FAIR is a known, documented hate group."
Janet Murguia is a passionate advocate of her cause. She knows the power of angry labels like "hate group". As Brian Lamb indicated last night, she prodded President Obama into action on behalf of illegal immigrants when she famously labeled him "deporter in chief". But in the immigration debate, she can't have her principles and eat them too by conducting a campaign to assassinate the character of those who have different ideas about immigration reform. Here's hoping she is committed to the high road that she spoke of the other day on C-SPAN.