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Obama Names Cecilia Muñoz as Director of Domestic Policy, Campaign Hits Mitt on LGBT Rights

Obama Names Cecilia Muñoz as Director of Domestic Policy, Campaign Hits Mitt on LGBT Rights

by Karen Ocamb on January 10, 2012

New Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz (Screen capture from 2010 video)

UPDATE re criticism of Munoz: Republican social conservatives must be beside themselves. President Obama just named Cecilia Muñoz as Director of the Domestic Policy Council – the job Religious Right GOP activist Gary Bauer held under President Ronald Reagan when the country made its sharp right turn. Munoz will coordinate the policy-making process and supervise the execution of domestic policy in the White House, according to a White House press release.

“Over the past three years, Cecilia has been a trusted advisor [as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs under Valerie Jarrett] who has demonstrated sound judgment day in and day out,” said President Obama. “Cecilia has done an extraordinary job working on behalf of middle class families, and I’m confident she’ll bring the same unwavering dedication to her new position.”

But here’s the politically explosive part for right wingers: Muñoz’s background includes getting her master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley, serving on the U.S. Programs Board of the Open Society Institute  (a grant-making organization funded by George Soros) and serving as a Senior Vice President at the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization. And now, one of her areas of concern will be immigration. From the press release:

Ms. Muñoz also leads the Administration’s efforts to fix the broken immigration system so that it meets America’s 21st century economic and security needs. In addition, she serves as Co-Chair of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, which has worked to not only continue to address the question of the island’s political status, but also partnered with local officials to address immediate concerns over jobs and the economy, health care, education, the environment, energy, and infrastructure.

Here’s a July 2010 interview with the new Domestic Policy Council Director:

UPDATE re criticism of Munoz: Longtime lesbian and Latina activist Gloria Nieto alerted me that the administration and Munoz have been heavily criticized (including by openly gay radio host Mario Solis-Marich, senior editor of Mario Wire and host of the Mario Solis-Marich Show on 760 AM in Denver) for deporting 396,000 people last year, 45% of whom were not convicted criminals:

In the past two months, a prominent progressive blogger called for Muñoz to resign from her position as White House director of intergovernmental affairs, and she was called out by student activists for the administration’s deportation policies. And this past week, Latino advocacy group Presente.org launched a petition asking her to denounce a key enforcement program called Secure Communities, which would put her in direct conflict with statements by top administration officials.

When Muñoz explained the program in an Oct. 18 PBS “Frontline” special, “Lost in Detention,” she repeated a standard administration line, saying that programs like Secure Communities help root out serious criminals in the undocumented community. Certainly, the proportion of those deported who are criminals has increased to about 55 percent under the Obama administration.

But critics of Secure Communities — which allows federal immigration agents to detect undocumented immigrants using information obtained by local law enforcement — stress that noncriminals and low-level offenders are still caught up in the program: from undocumented immigrants driving without a license to those against whom charges are eventually dropped, including U.S. citizens. The critics say the program hurts the community and can lead to racial profiling.

“We’re sick of these stories and the criminalization of immigrants, and Cecilia Muñoz should know better,” said Roberto Lovato, co-founder of Presente.org. “She’s the face of the Obama administration to the Latino community. So if they’re going to put her out there to criminalize immigrants, then they shouldn’t be surprised when the community starts fighting back to combat the lies.”

Pointing specifically to the administration’s embrace and expansion of Secure Communities, he added, “It’s not Cecilia Mu&ntildeoz, it’s the lies that are coming out of Cecilia Muñoz’s mouth.”

According to New American Media, a number of Latino organizations subsequently stood up on Munoz’s behalf:

In response to the call for Muñoz’s resignation, some of the nation’s leading immigrant rights groups released a joint statement Monday in defense of Muñoz. The statement was signed by 18 organizations including the Center for Community Change, National Council of La Raza, Asian American Justice Center, National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

“A lot of leaders in the immigrant rights community wanted to make sure that the debate (over Cecilia Muñoz) does not become a distraction from the real issues at hand: the way the administration is enforcing the law,” explained Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change.

“The administration’s policies are causing real harm and suffering and they need to be changed,” said Bhargava. “Cecilia is not the cause of those bad policies, and we are confident that she is doing everything she can to improve them.”

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), one of the organizations that signed the letter, explained, “We have known Cecilia Muñoz for many years and although we disagree with her statements as of late defending the indefensible, we believe her to be a woman of integrity, compassion, and deep commitment to work on behalf of all immigrants. While it is unfortunate she has to be one of the spokespersons for the failed Obama administration’s immigration policy, we are not going to lump everyone together and lose the few allies we have in the White House.”

Meanwhile, of course, there’s the Republican’s Latino problem, exacerbated by Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney on Saturday when he said he opposed the Dream Act.

Mitt Romney during Google/Fox debate (Screen capture)

From CNN on Dec. 31:

“The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it, and the answer is yes,” Romney said in response to a query from the audience of roughly 200 at The Family Table in Le Mars.

The DREAM Act would offer a path to citizenship for minors in the country illegally, providing they served in the armed forces or attended college.

The initiative has not gained enough support to pass Congress despite several attempts.

Romney said Saturday he would support a path to residency – not citizenship – for those who served in the military, but would not support other DREAM Act proposals.

“I’m delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents of this country,” he said. “For those who come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits I find to be contrary to the idea of a nation of law.”

A campaign aide said Romney opposed the DREAM Act provisions which would grant a path to citizenship for people who complete high school and two years of post-secondary education or those which allow states to grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition.

Of course one of the biggest issues for the 2012 election will be healthcare – which should also prove interesting, given the latest news from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services showing that the Affordable Care Act is working with health care spending growth in 2009 and 2010 having decreased to record lows.

But the Obama re-election campaign is not waiting for the GOP to pick a winner – they’re going after Romney hard – including with a new letter from Jamie Citron, Director of the LGBT Vote for Obama for America:

The Mitt Romney who ran for U.S. Senate in 1994 promised voters in Massachusetts that he’d be a stronger advocate for LGBT rights than Senator Kennedy.

And in 2002, while running for governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s campaign passed out fliers for Pride Weekend, saying “All citizens deserve equal rights regardless of their sexual preference.” Yesterday afternoon, Mitt Romney’s current campaign actually disavowed that 2002 flier.

You’re probably wondering a few things. First, just exactly which part of that flier doesn’t he agree with? And second, what could have possibly changed between yesterday morning (when Romney said he felt gays and lesbians deserved “full rights”) and yesterday afternoon? Maybe he thinks that line won’t play as well in the upcoming South Carolina primary?

It’s election season again, and the only Mitt we really know is the one who will say whatever it takes to win. If he is the Republican nominee, we can expect him to suddenly try and be best friends with LGBT voters again. That’s why we’re sending him the message that it doesn’t work like that — and that we won’t let him get away with it.

Say you’ll help hold Mitt accountable before he has a chance to pander yet again: http://my.barackobama.com/Hold-Mitt-Accountable

Mitt’s going to try to be whoever he thinks he needs to be to get elected — it’s our job to make sure those tactics come at a cost.

Stay tuned,

Jamie

Jamie Citron

Director, LGBT Vote

Obama for America

Now all we need is for the Obama administration and campaign to come out swinging in favor of a women’s right to choose what happens with her own body – something like more direct funding to Planned Parenthood for programs that encourage contraception, something  Catholic Rick Santorum wants eliminated, along with the right for a woman to have an abortion regardless of the circumstances – considering THIS:

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