For the 501(c)(4), see UnidosUS Action Fund (nonprofit)
UnidosUs, formerly known as the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) or “La Raza,” is one of the most influential Hispanic organizations in the United States. Meaning “The Race,” La Raza was founded in 1968 as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. It is associated with the 501(c)(4) political organization, UnidosUS Action Fund.
NCLR presents itself as a mainstream, “trusted, nonpartisan voice for Latinos.” It is best known for its aggressive defense and promotion of expanded immigration and giving legal status to illegal immigrants. It supported President Barack Obama‘s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) executive maneuvers to unilaterally grant status to illegal immigrants and the “DREAM Act,” legislative proposal which would provide legal status to certain illegal immigrants. NCLR also backs other actions at the federal, state, and local levels that offer legal presence and protection to illegal immigrants, especially those from Mexico and Central America.
On July 11, 2017 La Raza announced it would change its name to UnidosUS, citing the need to expand beyond a Latino ethnic coalition.
NCLR evolved from the National Organization for Mexican American Services (NOMAS) an organization started in the early 1960s to bring many disparate, largely ineffectual Hispanic-interest groups together. NOMAS approached the Ford Foundation, which financed an unprecedented University of California study of Mexican-Americans. Ford had been interested in immigration issues since the 1950s and with this impetus would go on to become one of the primary funders of groups advocating for higher immigration levels.
Inspired by the research on Mexican-Americans, three activists, Herman Gallegos, Dr. Julian Samora, and Dr. Ernesto Garza, founded the Southwest Council of La Raza in 1968. Seed money was provided by the Ford Foundation, the National Council of Churches and the United Auto Workers (UAW). In 1972 the organization changed “Southwest” to “National” to reflect its national character and ambitions.
NCLR works through a nationwide network of 260 independent affiliates broken into six regions: California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and Texas, all overseen by regional “Affiliate Councils.” Many of these affiliates are influential in their own right, which magnifies NCLR’s already considerable influence.
According to NCLR’s website, “We partner with Affiliates across the country to serve millions of Latinos in the areas of civic engagement, civil rights and immigration, education, workforce and the economy, health, and housing.”
Illegal Immigration Advocacy
NCLR paints itself as a mainstream civil rights organization. The late representative Charles Norwood (R-Georgia) had a different take, saying in 2006, “[t]o most of the mainstream media, most members of Congress, and even many of their own members, the National Council of La Raza is no more than a Hispanic Rotary Club,” however, “Behind the respectable front… lies the real agenda of the La Raza movement, the agenda that led to those thousands of illegal immigrants in the streets of American cities, waving Mexican flags, brazenly defying our laws, and demanding concessions.”
NCLR partners with such radical Hispanic activist groups as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA).
The NCLR takes dim view of efforts (most notably California Proposition 187) to prevent state-level public assistance from going to illegal immigrants. In a 2003 NCLR annual conference speech, then-NCLR President (later U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama) Raul Yzaguirre said:
Proposition 187 in California and similar proposals elsewhere were ugly efforts to hurt the Latino community. They were direct and blatant attacks.
But we fought back. We didn’t passively sit back and accept someone else’s fate for us. Maybe we surprised the bigots and the xenophobes. We got angry when they expected us to be meek.
Despite NCLR’s nonpartisan pretension, it has historically rejected efforts of Republicans to reach out for moderate pro-immigration policy. President George W. Bush, who attempted to enact a liberalization of the immigration system during his tenure, was denounced by Yzaguirre, who said:
This time they don’t want to make you angry, so their tactics are subtle. But no matter how many nice words and glossy photos they hand us, a knife in the back is deadly even if it’s delivered with a smile.
Similarly, Yzaguirre said of U.S. English, an organization dedicated to making English the official language of the United States, “U.S. English is, to Hispanics [the same] as the Ku Klux Klan is to blacks.”
Raul Yzaguirre became president of NCLR in 1978 and remained in that position for almost 30 years. After his retirement in 2004, he took a posting with Arizona State University. During Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, Raul Yzaguirre served as campaign co-chair and led her Hispanic outreach effort. In 2010, President Barack Obama gave him a political appointment to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, a post he held until 2013.
NCLR’s current president is Janet Murguia, who took over from Yzaguirre in 2005. She has served on the board of the labor union-backed advocacy group American Rights at Work (most notable for its push for the “Employee Free Choice Act,” a union-organizing bill that would effectively abolish secret ballot union elections), which recently merged with the union-funded advocacy group Jobs With Justice.
Murguia previously worked for Al Gore’s Presidential campaign in 2000 and as a deputy director for legislative affairs in the Clinton White House.
One of the most influential former NCLR officials is Cecilia Muñoz, who was NCLR’s Senior Vice President for the Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation before accepting a position with the Obama administration. She also sat on the Boards of the Center for Community Change, the Open Society Institute, Atlantic Philanthropies, National Immigration Forum and CASA de Maryland. With the Obama administration she served first as White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, then as Domestic Policy Council director. Following the election, Muñoz took a position with the liberal public policy organization New America as Vice President for Policy and Technology and Director of the New America National Network.
NCLR receives a significant portion of its funding through government grants – $5.7 million in 2015 alone – approximately 15% of total 2015 income. The federal government has provided at least $28.7 million to NCLR since 2008. NCLR has received some of its funding from the multi-billion dollar bank settlement following the 2008 mortgage meltdown, a practice denounced by conservatives as a “slush fund.”
A 2016 report by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs described this as “a textbook case of outrageous executive overreach.” Even worse, banks were incentivized to give directly to designated leftwing groups by being told that each dollar donated directly counted as $2 of their assessed penalty. The report noted, “Specifically, both the Citigroup and Bank of America settlement agreements include provisions providing a two-for-one credit for donations to third-party groups.” The Committee report indicated that NCLR received $1.5 million this way from Bank of America. Following a 2008 Department of Justice settlement against three banks, NCLR received $3.1 million.
The National Mortgage Settlement Summary of the five largest banks does not mention NCLR directly, but lists a number of NCLR affiliates that received over $2 million from the fund: El Centro de la Raza of Seattle, Washington ($600,000); NeighborWorks of Orange County, California ($345,000); Unity Council of Oakland ($575,000); and Community Housing Works of San Diego ($500,000).
Private grants accounted for about 63%, of NCLR’s 2015 receipts, and another 21% was raised through events and membership dues. Foundations have been very generous to NCLR, donating at least $158 million since 2000. The top ten shown in the following table represent big name organizations, and provided 85 percent of the total. Other big name-foundation supporters include like Verizon, Comcast, Wells Fargo, Fidelity, Rockefeller, Citibank, Open Society, and the California Endowment.
|1. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation||$30,730,224||2000|
|2. Ford Foundation||$22,975,600||2000|
|3. Neighborhood Reinvestment||$17,030,021||2008|
|4. Walton Family & Walmart||$14,922,379||2001|
|6. Bank of America||$10,466,200||2004|
|7. W.K. Kellogg Foundation||$10,050,000||2002|
|9. J.P. Morgan Chase||$4,900,000||2012|
|10. Charles Stewart Mott Foundation||$4,011,000||2002|