Wednesday, March 05, 2008

La Raza: What Is It?

Inspired by Nadia, I looked up La Raza (the organization) and discovered some interesting things, especially regarding translations and rumors. Take a look below, or go right to their website.

Here's my ignorance which has been cleared up: I didn't know La Raza was a formal lobbying group. I thought it was more like a cultural shift, something like the "Civil Rights Era" with separate groups working towards the same goals. In a way, it IS a cultural movement, but La Raza the organization is something specific.

Goes to show you how much I know about lobbying! Ha ha ha!
Open Letter to the Public:

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 help build and the lay health educators we train 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, or naturalization assistance.

NCLR is also among the most recognized organizations in the nonprofit sector. Our work in the health arena has been honored by the Surgeon General of the United States and by numerous professional organizations. Both our former President/CEO and the current Chair of our Board of Directors have earned the prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and The Nonprofit Times has recognized NCLR’s leadership with its coveted “Power and Influence Top 50” award, honoring the top 50 leaders shaping the nonprofit world. In addition, NCLR is featured alongside Habitat for Humanity and the Heritage Foundation in Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, a book that analyzes the practices of 12 nonprofit organizations which have successfully created social change (released in October 2007).

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, an historically disadvantaged and oft-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.

As an advocacy organization engaged in the public arena, we know that some will disagree with our views. As Americans committed to basic civil rights, we respect anyone’s right to do so.

But it is also clear that some critics are willfully distorting the facts and deliberately mischaracterizing our organization and our work. Recently, we have been the subject of a number of ad hominem attacks that we believe cross the line of civility in public discourse.

At times, we have ignored these attacks, preferring to invest our precious time and resources in our work, believing that the quality of the work speaks for itself. At other times, we have responded in a civil fashion, through private correspondence or by requesting a meeting with a critic so we can discuss our differences. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do this in every case, especially when our private requests for civil discussion are responded to with further unfounded attacks, often echoed in the media as if they were accurate, which they are not.

So, today we are engaging in an unprecedented step to make sure that the record is as clear and accessible as we can possibly make it. We do so in the interest of full disclosure and in the spirit of complete transparency. We trust that, after reviewing all of these materials, readers will come to their own conclusions about the merits of these and similar attacks to which we have been subjected.

Janet Murguía
President and CEO
National Council of La Raza

NCLR Responds: A Point-by-Point Analysis

The following are common misconceptions voiced about NCLR and our work. Please click on the links below for more information on NCLR’s response to each accusation.
The Translation of Our Name: National Council of La Raza
Support of Separatist Organizations
Reconquista and Segregation
Solely Hispanic-serving Programs
Border Security and Immigration
Full Disclosure of Our Lobbying Funds
Earmark of Federal Funds

1. The Translation of Our Name: National Council of La Raza
Many people incorrectly translate our name, “La Raza,” as “the race.” While it is true that one meaning of “raza” in Spanish is indeed “race,” in Spanish, as in English and any other language, words can and do have multiple meanings. As noted in several online dictionaries, “La Raza” means “the people” or “the community.” Translating our name as “the race” is not only inaccurate, it is factually incorrect. “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race. As anyone who has ever met a Dominican American, Mexican American, or Spanish American can attest, Hispanics can be and are members of any and all races.

The term “La Raza” 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.” The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world’s races, cultures, and religions. Mistranslating “La Raza” to mean “the race” implies that it is a term meant to exclude others. In fact, the full term coined by Vasconcelos, “La Raza Cósmica,” meaning the “cosmic people,” was developed to reflect not purity but the mixture inherent in the Hispanic people. This is an inclusive concept, meaning that Hispanics share with all other peoples of the world a common heritage and destiny.

2. Support of Separatist Organizations
NCLR has never supported, and does not support, separatist organizations. Some critics have accused MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán) of being a separatist organization and denounced NCLR for being a “major funder” of the organization. The reality is that in 2003, NCLR provided one chapter of the organization (Georgetown University) with a $2,500 subgrant to support a conference of Latino students – mainly from the Southwest and West Coast – who were attending East Coast colleges but who could not afford to travel home for Thanksgiving. These Latino student groups hold mini-conferences with workshops and speakers, bringing together students who are often the first high school graduates and college attendees in their families.

According to its mission statement, MEChA is a student organization whose 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 freely acknowledges that some of the organization’s founding documents, e.g., Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, contain inappropriate rhetoric, and NCLR also acknowledges that rhetoric from some MEChA members has been extremist and inflammatory. In a June 2006 Los Angeles Times op-ed, journalist Gustavo Arellano noted that all of the MEChA members of his class graduated from college and have gone on to successful careers, a rarity at a time when only 12% of Latinos have a college degree. And to the group’s founding documents, Arellano also pointed out that “few members take these dated relics of the 1960s seriously, if they even bothered to read them.”

NCLR has publicly and repeatedly disavowed this rhetoric as we have others that we believe are inappropriate, as we did when we criticized a pro-separatist Latino website for its racist and anti-Semitic views. We will continue, however, to support programs and activities that help more Hispanics enter and finish college.

Throughout its history NCLR has supported numerous initiatives to oppose all forms of unlawful discrimination; for example:

  • A series of campaigns in conjunction with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
  • Education Fund calling on all Americans to be tolerant of diversity
  • Joint initiatives with the National Urban League, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics to identify and denounce hate crimes and other acts of intolerance
  • Educational seminars and roundtables to expose and explore the causes of discrimination against Afro-Latinos and Indigenous Latinos, including instances of discrimination perpetrated by fellow Hispanics
  • Public service campaigns with the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and other partners to prevent housing discrimination against minorities, families with children, and individuals with disabilities

3. Reconquista and Segregation
Another misconception about NCLR is that we support a “Reconquista,” or the right of Mexico to reclaim land in the southwestern United States. NCLR has not made and does not make any such claim; indeed, such a claim is so far outside of the mainstream of the Latino community that we find it incredible that our critics raise it as an issue. NCLR has never supported and does not endorse the notion of a “Reconquista” or “Aztlán.” Similarly, NCLR’s critics falsely claim that the statement “Por La Raza todo, Fuera de La Raza nada,” [“For the community everything, outside the community nothing”] is NCLR’s motto. NCLR unequivocally rejects this statement, which is not and has never been the motto of any Latino organization.

NCLR’s work as a civil rights institution is about inclusion and participation in the American Dream, including extensive efforts to assist new immigrants in the process of fully integrating into American life. In fact, NCLR and its Affiliates work every day to provide English classes, support naturalization efforts, and provide other services that help integrate immigrants fully into American society.

Many of these critics claim that NCLR supports dividing up sections or regions of this country by race or ethnic heritage. In particular, this claim was made by one outspoken critic of NCLR, Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA), who unfortunately passed away on February 13, 2007. As the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization, NCLR has a long, proud, well-documented history of opposing segregation based on race or ethnicity. Toward that end, we have actively contributed to the enactment and enforcement of fair housing and other civil rights laws, and supported numerous measures to ensure that all Americans have the freedom to choose where to live.

NCLR has also supported:

4. Solely Hispanic-serving Programs
Critics also argue that NCLR’s programs only serve Hispanics. This is simply not true. NCLR and its programs are sanctioned by civil rights laws administered by independent agencies at the federal, state, and local level. We helped enact some of these laws, and we take them very seriously.

For example, in 2006, as part of NCLR’s homeownership program, NCLR Affiliates served about 29,000 clients. Almost 20% were White and approximately 12% were African American. The program targets low-income neighborhoods that contain large Hispanic populations. NCLR Affiliates are some of the few institutions in many cities that offer their services in both English and Spanish. Due to the demographics of the neighborhoods served, and the type of services offered by NCLR Affiliates, collectively they tend to attract an Hispanic clientele, although not exclusively.

We note that NCLR’s staff includes Americans from all racial and ethnic groups – White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. We note further that NCLR’s bylaws, personnel policies, and institutional values contain explicit prohibitions against discrimination.

5. Border Security and Immigration
Unfortunately, NCLR has been called an “open-borders advocate” and the “illegal alien lobby” numerous times. NCLR has repeatedly recognized the right of the United States, as a sovereign nation, to control its borders. Moreover, NCLR has supported numerous specific measures to strengthen border enforcement, provided that such enforcement is conducted fairly, humanely, and in a nondiscriminatory fashion.

For example:

  • NCLR helped draft and advocated for bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate which included tough enforcement measures against unauthorized migration.
  • NCLR’s President and CEO served on and endorsed the recommendations of the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future, an independent, bipartisan, blue ribbon commission chaired by former Rep. Lee Hamilton and former Senator Spencer Abraham, which recently released a set of recommendations on immigration reform, including more than a dozen new enforcement measures.
  • In a major address in San Diego in 2005, NCLR President Janet Murguía stressed that any comprehensive immigration reform needed to include a strong, effective, and humane enforcement component.

All of NCLR’s policy materials describing its positions and activities on the immigration debate are all available on its website. In particular, an Issue Brief, Immigration Reform: Comprehensive Solutions to Complex Problems can be found here. In addition, a set of FAQs related to NCLR’s position on immigration can be found here.

6. Full Disclosure of Our Lobbying Funds
Information regarding NCLR’s lobbying expenses and activities is available and easily accessible to the public and updated twice a year. NCLR carries out its lobbying activities in strict compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including filing reports twice a year with the clerks of the U.S. House of Representatives** and the U.S. Senate. NCLR’s expenses for activities defined by law as lobbying, at the federal and state level, range from 1%-2% of its annual budget. Lobbying expenses are separately accounted for, consistent with nonprofit best practices, and are supported by unrestricted revenues such as Affiliate dues, registration fees, sponsorships for events, and other unrestricted funds. No public or foundation funds are used, directly or indirectly, to support any lobbying activity. In addition, consistent with nonprofit best practices, NCLR is subject to an annual audit by an independent auditor and publishes its financial information in its Annual Report, which is readily available to the public.

**To access public records filed with the House of Representatives, you must visit the following:Office of the Clerk - U.S. House of RepresentativesB106 Cannon House Office BuildingWashington, DC. 20515-6612

7. Earmark of Federal Funds
Some critics have implied that federal funding earmarked to NCLR for housing and community development financing has been used, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, to advance our public policy efforts on immigration. This is simply inaccurate.

Our housing and community development financing is carried out through our subsidiary, the Raza Development Fund (RDF). Established in 1999, the mission of RDF is to bring private capital and development assistance to local organizations serving Latino families in areas such as affordable housing, primary health care, and educational facilities. The RDF board of directors includes experts in housing and community programs as well as representatives from a number of prominent private financial institutions including Bank of America, State Farm Insurance Company, Citi, and JPMorgan Chase.

In 1999, the Department of the Treasury certified RDF as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Today, RDF is by far the nation’s largest and most successful Latino CDFI. Since its inception, RDF has made more than $50 million in loans. About half of RDF’s capitalization comes from private financial institutions including State Farm Insurance Company, Bank of America, Allstate Insurance, and other sources. RDF uses these monies, along with other public and private funds, to finance charter schools, health clinics, day care centers, and other community facilities; affordable housing developments; and small businesses.

RDF uses the funds appropriated by Congress under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Fund for the sole purpose of supporting its lending activities. Moreover, RDF’s policy is that all earnings from its lending activities are to be reinvested in the fund for the sole purpose of advancing its mission. Thus, no federal funding earmarked to RDF has been retained by NCLR for any purpose; on the contrary, NCLR supports RDF by deploying considerable resources of its own to assist Latino-serving community-based organizations in developing community facilities and housing programs.

NCLR has published this extensive analysis because we trust readers to come to their own conclusions about the merits, or lack thereof, of our critics’ charges. View below what some other observers have concluded.

Letter from Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) in support of NCLR against Rep. Norwood's (R-GA) claims
Letter to Rep. Norwood from Reverend Timothy McDonald, Chair of African American Ministers in Action, requesting that he apologize for recent remarks made about NCLR.
Commentary by Janet Murguía: "Latinos Don't Have Secret Agenda"
Michelle Malkin column: " 'The Race' Schools: Your Tax Dollars at Work"
Janet Murguía's response to Michelle Malkin: "She's Wrong About My Group"
"Dear Michelle Malkin: Study Spanish," a column by Mary Sanchez
The Denver Post: “Hispanic Council Fighting Negative Perceptions of Purpose”


Here is the email I sent to them this morning.

Dear Members of NCLR:

I am writing because I have been concerned with the "Immigration Resolution" that has been implemented in Prince William County, where I reside. I and many others believe this resolution was not passed with consent of all county residents, that it has created a hostile environments of ALL immigrants, that it is a gross misuse of our taxes (which have been raised), and that it violates civil rights. Immigrants are being targeted, racially profiled, and harassed; this resolution has spurred on hate groups and other vocal dispute as well.

I am wondering if La Raza is addressing the issues in Prince William County specifically, and if not, I am asking for your assistance (as I am sure others have done).

Below is a letter I sent to the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice for your review. (Where I used the word "embassy" I believe the correct word is "consulate." My apologies.)

Thank you for your time and for helping the immigrant communities in our country.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

March 3, 2007

Dear Secretary of State, Dr. Rice:

I am writing to ask for immediate assistance in Prince William County VA where we have an emergency. One form of assistance could be establishing immigration embassies here in this county to help immigrants who are RIGHT NOW being persecuted in our local system. Another would be to grant temporary, emergency amnesty to immigrants who have lived and worked here and who have no criminal record.

As you might have heard, PWC has implemented a "crackdown on illegal immigration." That "crackdown" officially begins today in the form of a local "Immigration Resolution." But even before today, we have had immigrant families in crisis--fathers and mothers and family members in jail awaiting deportation while their children and families suffer without them.

The resolution was passed without full consent PWC citizens. The resolution was passed without evidence of need and implemented without having funds to pay for it. The resolution is putting our county in debt and raising our taxes. But more importantly, the resolution is violating human and civil rights. Racial profiling is already happening.

The resolution was created as part of a political stunt to elect the Chair of the Board of County Supervisors, Corey Stewart, and his counterpart, John Stirrup. These BOCS members took their policy from a "Help Save" group related to FAIR, a designated hate group. BOCS member John Stirrup and Chair Corey Stewart have made openly racist comments (on video) and have aligned themselves with racist, abusive members of local groups that are targeting and harassing immigrants.

While Congress has dragged its feet in addressing immigration problems, local factions are creating hostile and frightening environments right here in the D.C. Metro area. I realize you can't ignore current law, but in times of crisis, I know you have the authority to use diplomacy and use emergency intervention.

Dr. Rice, these are hard working people with paperwork problems--they are not criminals. If any truly ARE criminals, then these are the ONLY ones who need to be deported, not the people who have worked here and have been contributing members to our communities.

Please do all you can to address the issues here, in Mexico, in Central America, and in Asia. Please do not allow hatred and violence in our county and in our country. Please do not allow another bloody Civil Rights era to wound our country and the world. We must help our international brothers and sisters before this erupts into global conflict.

Thank you for your time and your service to our country.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

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