Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Columns & Features > Guest Voz > Guest Voz: NCLR’s Janet Murguia Outlines a Battle Plan for Latinos to Renew America

Guest Voz: NCLR’s Janet Murguia Outlines a Battle Plan for Latinos to Renew America

By Janet Murguia

Janet Murguia is President and Chief Executive Officer of NCLR. She sits on the Board of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda.
In addition, she is an executive committee member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and a member of the Merrill Lynch Diversity & Inclusion Council. In 2007, Murguía was named to Poder magazine’s “The Poderosos 100,” Latino Leaders magazine’s “101 Top Leaders of the Hispanic Community,” and Hispanic magazine’s “Powerful Latinos 2007.”

My organization, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), just held its 2007 Annual Conference in Miami. Being there and talking with Latinos from all across the nation reinforced my belief that — despite the recent defeat of the Senate immigration bill and the hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric that we hear daily — our destiny is in our own hands.

That’s not to say that I’m not troubled by what is happening in our country. It is horrible that, despite a national consensus that our immigration system is broken, a majority of senators would not even proceed with a debate on comprehensive immigration reform.
This cowardice has a message for us. It says, “You cannot rely on politicians, or opinion leaders, or the media, or even the large silent majority of Americans who support immigration reform to protect you. Your fate is up to you. You – and no one else – must provide a cure.”
The Senate’s failure to take action, and its surrender to the forces of fear and hate, have given some people the freedom to act on their worst impulses. This ugly atmosphere will produce serious consequences, and not just for the undocumented.
We are seeing as many as 1,000 proposed state laws — and thousands more at the city or county level — aimed against people “suspected” of being here illegally. The result is that public libraries, parks, and even our workplaces no longer feel as safe and welcoming for Latinos as they once did.
We’re clearly living in a time of great struggle; but moments of great struggle are always where significant progress is made. We must now step up and seize the day to help renew America. We must do what matters most — we must live democracy on a daily basis, visible and engaged.
Let’s renew America by graduating more students, increasing the number of Latino homeowners, creating more businesses, sitting on more boards, and running for office.
Let’s weave ourselves so deeply into the American fabric — into schools, neighborhoods, offices, industries — so that there is no longer any room for the Latino bashers.
And we must level the playing field with the most powerful weapon we have: the vote. We can debate, we can propose, we can argue, but until, as a community, we vote — in massive numbers and in order to control our destiny — we will give fear an advantage over hope.
There are four things the Latino community must do:
First, we must mobilize our young people. Every year, 400,000 young Latino citizens become eligible to vote.
Second, we have to naturalize every Latino who is eligible. All of us can encourage friends and relatives to become U.S. citizens and we can volunteer our time to help make this possible for others.
Third, we must commit ourselves to a massive voter registration program. Registering to vote is a rare demand democracy makes of us. Let’s live up to it. And, we can work to get more Latinos to register to vote before the next election.
Last, we must make our voices heard and vote on November 4, 2008. In 2004, only one in four Latinos who were eligible to vote did.
NCLR has just announced a partnership — ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! — with our sister organization, the National Association for Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO); Univision; ImpreMedia; and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), to accomplish all of these objectives.
Our goal is to have the largest Hispanic turnout in history next year.
Remember, the very essence of America’s promise — that our best days are not behind us, they are yet to come.

To get information on citizenship and voter registration or to become a volunteer for the ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! campaign, please call 888-839-8682 or visit

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  • Frank
    August 17, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Too bad she couldn’t be honest with her words. She uses dishonest terms like hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric and undocumented. No one I know of is anti-immigrant or hateful of immigrants. They are opposed to illegal immigration and that is a big difference.
    So she thinks that Latinos should vote so they can gain political clout in this country and for what? To reward Latino illegal aliens with legalization for violating our immigration laws? To make sure that Latinos will be favored in this country by their increase in numbers? Sorry but this reaks of racism and un-American sentiment.

  • adriana
    August 18, 2007 at 12:11 am

    “So she thinks that Latinos should vote so they can gain political clout in this country and for what? To reward Latino illegal aliens with legalization for violating our immigration laws?”
    Even US born Latinos don’t turn out at the polls in very high numbers, so I don’t think those American citizens would be rewarded for violating immigration laws.
    Maybe if the employers of said illegal immigrants notified our government that they needed these workers and lobbied on their behalf, since they are using their resources, we would have some sort of immigration reform that would make everyone happy. I don’t think that illegal immigrants want to be here illegally. The system is so broken that even the businesses on this side of the border don’t seem to want to play by the rules.

  • yave begnet
    August 18, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Ms. Murguia is right: vote, vote, and vote! That is the answer.
    Maybe if the employers of said illegal immigrants notified our government that they needed these workers and lobbied on their behalf, since they are using their resources, we would have some sort of immigration reform that would make everyone happy.
    We’re never going to get immigration reform that will make everyone happy. But you’re right, business voices have been sadly absent from the immigration debate. Maybe they’re afraid of the O’Reilly/Limbaugh/Dobbs smear machine. But businesses and politicians will not be won over by appeals to justice and dignity, only by fear of political power. So vote, vote, vote!

  • Frank
    August 18, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    The reason that businesses haven’t let our government know that they need these illegal workers is because they have liked things the way they are. They hired them rather than Americans because they could pay them lower wages. If they offered Americans these jobs at a fair wage they would have their needed workers and they would be American citizens. But unfortunately their bottom line is always their profit margins even if it means circumventing our laws. These employers need to be held accountable in a big way. If the jobs dry up the illegals will go home.

  • Horace
    August 18, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Frank is right. What do citizen Latinos expect to get by becoming a voting power? Would they demand the right to add new benefit programs for their ethnic group at the expense of others? The right to raid the treasury for their own special needs? They would obtain the right to nullify immigration laws that have as their intent the prevention of accepting legal residents that could easily wind up on the public welfare system. What kind of economics do they think this kind of wealth transfer is going to provide the rest of Americans? Growth will slow as more and more taxes are levied to support foreign residents in a similar manner as citizens. That’s what welfare is about, bringing everyone up to a certain minimum standard of living. What limits would they intend to put on this open borders proposition? Current low income Hispanics, including citizens would eventually be hurt by an oversupply of low skill labor. It would be ironic that those Hispanics citizens currently crying for amnesty would eventually demand limits because of this. And when a recession comes and millions of low income Americans and amnestied aliens wind up competing for the dwindling job pool, it will be Hispanic citizen against Hispanic legal resident, brother agains brother, a nasty proposition indeed. Don’t count on the legal resident to return to Mexico or other Latin American countries voluntarily, thus relieving the problem. They won’t leave now, so why should they anytime in the future? Amnesty looks good to Hispanic citizens now, but it may not always be the case.
    Hispanics can look to the unification of East and West Germany to see the problems of integrating a successful economic system with one that’s been a failure. And that’s what Americans are being asked to do. Americans are being asked to take in millions of ill educated unskilled poor, products of an unjust economic system in their homelands and bring them up to a standard of living that the American concience can live with.
    A famous economist once said that this nation could not survive without borders. He contended the resulting voting block caused by the massive influx of poor would result in these people voting themselves bankrupting welfare benefits. I believe him.

  • Frank
    August 19, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    I don’t understand Janet or the NCLR’s intent by her statement of the Latino battle to renew America. America needs renewing? What battle and for what?

  • David O.
    August 19, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    You vision on the future keeps you awake at night doesn’t it?

  • Frank
    August 23, 2007 at 8:35 am

    You wish Americans were still asleep at the wheel, don’t you? But guess what, the sleeping giant has awoken and the tyranny will no longer be tolerated.

  • Mary
    August 24, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Nothing said here about registering “illegals” to vote. The stated aim is to find Legal Permanent Residents (a status not easily attained if you don’t have documents) who have not yet become citizens, and urge them to get their citizenship and vote. Also to encourage the young folks born or naturalized here to vote. Nothing illegal is being proposed.
    Being pro-latino doesn’t necessarily mean being anti- anybody else. As Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, then who will be? And if I am only for myself, then what am I?”

  • Horace
    August 26, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    David O, the only thing that keeps me awake at night is the fact that there are so many shallow thinking supporters of illegal immigration in this country and that they actually have the power to vote. Where is Darwin when we need him.

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