100 People to Watch This Fall : Page 50 of 102

Cecilia Muñoz Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council 

Officially, Muñoz is the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council. But in a year when immigration policy has risen near the top of President Obama’s legislative wish list, she could very well go by another title: White House immigration-reform czar.

Born in Detroit to Bolivian-immigrant parents, Muñoz worked for decades as an immigrant-rights advocate with the National Council of La Raza before joining the White House in 2009. From that platform, the former activist was put in the uncomfortable position of defending Obama’s immigration policies even as the administration cracked down on illegal residents and spiked deportations — but did not prioritize comprehensive reform — through the president’s first term.

Since November’s elections, however, the dynamics surrounding immigration reform have changed drastically. Muñoz has been a whirlwind working to see that the rare political opening is not lost.

Behind the scenes, Muñoz has helped to catalyze delicate deals between a host of strange bedfellows — business and labor, agriculture and technology, farms and farmhands — that led to a bipartisan deal on the Senate’s comprehensive reform bill.

In the public eye, meanwhile, she’s testified before Congress and made the rounds on both the English- and Spanish-speaking media circuit, all for the purpose of getting a bill to her boss’s desk.

Given the political environment on Capitol Hill, Muñoz has her work cut out for her. But if immigration reform is enacted this Congress, few would dispute that it had much to do with her.