The piece by Ian M. Smith in The Hill last weekend is so full of lies that it’s hard to know where to begin.
First, let’s start with who we are. NCLR is a nearly 50-year- old institution that works to improve opportunities for Americans, including Latino families, and has done so working with a host of elected officials and organizations from both parties and from all parts of the political spectrum.
And let’s be clear who Smith is. He writes for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the litigation arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have designated a hate group, not just because IRLI and FAIR oppose virtually all forms of immigration, but because the group’s founder has espoused white nationalist beliefs; has made explicitly racial appeals as a tactic to support their anti-immigrant agenda, and the group’s suggested reading list includes Peter Brimelow’sAlien Nation, a book where the working premise is that America should remain dominated by whites and Pat Buchanan’s State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, a book which posits that America move from being predominantly white has been "one of the greatest tragedies in human history.”
For years, anti-immigrant groups have purposefully misrepresented the name of our organization, the National Council of La Raza. It literally means the National Council of the People.
Our name does not mean “the race.” The fact remains that Hispanics are not a race; they are an ethnicity and there are millions of Latinos of all races in this country.
Second, it is simply a lie to say that we were founded by Jose Angel Gutierrez. A simple search would show that he was the founder of La Raza Unida, a short-lived political party founded in Texas in the late 1960s. What he says in that clip is abhorrent and has no connection whatsoever to NCLR, which is nonpartisan and does not endorse parties or candidates.
It’s as if Smith is claiming that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the singing group Up with People are one and the same, because they both have “people” in the title. We disagree with Gutierrez’s statements in a video linked to Smith’s article, but that is irrelevant because that clip is about a different organization that no longer exists.
Third, we have never encouraged anyone who is not eligible to register or vote. To say that we have is a lie. Smith made it up. He should take it back. Period.
We are a nonpartisan organization working to ensure eligible Americans are registered to vote, we help eligible immigrants apply for citizenship, and we support legal immigration and the fair treatment of human beings regardless of their immigration status.
Finally, Cecilia Muñoz and Felicia Escobar, former NCLR staffers, are dedicated public servants who have served President Obama with distinction and they do not need our defense. This may be news to Smith, but senior White House officials sometimes meet with the Department of Homeland Security. It’s part of their job.
Munoz and Escobar, according to Smith, were part of a broader conspiracy to register voters to cast ballot for Democrats. But like so many of Smith’s claims, not a single credible news outlet uncovered this alleged plot. Because there wasn’t one.
Because they cannot cite anything inappropriate that NCLR has actually said or done, IRLI and FAIR get the facts wrong, twist that fiction into wild conspiracy theories, then allege guilt by association; in other words, exactly what one reads every day on Breitbart.
Comparing our organization to one as racially divisive as Breitbart is the biggest whopper in Ian Smith’s piece.
Poorly sourced material with glaring inaccuracies, aimed solely at furthering a divisive agenda don’t serve our diverse democracy, they only tear at its fabric.
Murguía is President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.