With more than 300 affiliate organizations in 41 U.S. states, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is currently the largest national Hispanic civil-rights and advocacy organization in America. It is also one of the most influential, as reflected in the fact that NCLR representatives have been called to testify at Congressional hearings more than 100 times since the 1970s.
NCLR's roots can be traced back to the early 1960s, when a group of young Mexican Americans in Washington, DC decided to form a coordinating body to bring existing Hispanic groups—which were generally small and isolated—together into a single united front, which they called the National Organization for Mexican American Services (NOMAS). Soon thereafter, NOMAS presented a funding proposal to the Ford Foundation, which in turn issued a large grant to finance a major, first-of-its-kind UCLA study of Mexican Americans and the major issues they faced.
Before long, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights began to hold a series of influential hearings on the status of Mexican Americans and, later, other Latino groups residing in the United States. In addition, the Ford Foundation initiated a second (though less academic) investigation of the same subject. To carry out that study, Ford hired three Mexican Americans—Dr. Julian Samora (a community activist who helped pioneer the field of Latino Studies; Dr. Ernesto Galarza (a professor who was widely considered “the dean of Chicano activism”); and Herman Gallegos (a San Francisco-based community organizer who had previously worked with his mentor, Saul Alinsky, to establish a Mexican-American political action group. These three men traveled throughout the Southwest to meet with other Hispanic activists vis a vis policies and programs that could be developed to help Mexican Americans. These consultations resulted in the publication of two reports showing that Mexican Americans “faced numerous obstacles, especially with respect to poverty”; needed “more local, grassroots programmatic and advocacy organizations”; and could benefit from a sustained “national advocacy” campaign on their behalf.
To address these issues, Galarza, Samora, and Gallegos collaborated to co-found the Southwest Council of La Raza (SWCLR)—NCLR's predecessor—in Phoenix, Arizona in February 1968. SWCLR's major funding was provided by the Ford Foundation, the National Council of Churches, and the United Auto Workers union. Gallegos became SWCLR's first executive director, while Galarza served as a consultant to the nascent organization. In the summer of 1968, SWCLR began to help establish and support barrio (community) groups committed to “promoting empowerment, voter registration, leadership development, and other forms of advocacy.”
At the end of 1972, SWCLR became a national organization and changed its name to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR, often simply called “La Raza”) “to reflect its commitment to represent and serve all Mexican Americans in all parts of the country.” The following year, the group relocated its headquarters from Phoenix to Washington, DC. Thanks in large measure to continued support from the Ford Foudation (totaling approximately $40 million in grants over the next four decades), NCLR would grow into a behemoth of the left-wing “civil rights” and “social justice” establishment.
Controversy over the Name “La Raza”
The words “La Raza” (Spanish for “The Race”) in NCLR's name have long been a source of considerable controversy. Critics claim that the name reflects an organizational commitment to racial separatism and race-based grievance mongering. By NCLR's telling, however, such critics have mistranslated the word “Raza.” “The term 'La Raza,'” says the organization, “has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as 'the people' or, according to some scholars, 'the Hispanic people of the New World.'” According to NCLR, “the full term,” which was coined by the Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos, is “la raza cósmica,” meaning “the cosmic people.” NCLR describes this as “an inclusive concept” whose purpose is to express the fact that “Hispanics share with all other peoples of the world a common heritage and destiny.”
NCLR's interpretation of Vasconcelos's explanation, however, is inaccurate. As Guillermo Lux and Maurilio Vigil (professors of history and political science, respectively, at New Mexico Highlands University) note in their 1991 book, Aztlan: Essays on the Chicano Homeland:
"The concept of La Raza can be traced to the ideas and writings of Jose Vasconcelos, the Mexican theorist who developed the theory of la raza cosmica (the cosmic or super race) at least partially as a minority reaction to the Nordic notions of racial superiority. Vasconelos developed a systematic theory which argued that climatic and geographic conditions and mixture of Spanish and Indian races created a superior race. The concept of La Raza connotes that the mestizo is a distinct race and not Caucasian, as is technically the case."
In short, Vasconcelos was not promoting "an inclusive concept," but rather, the notion of Hispanic racial superiority.
NCLR's claim is further contradicted by the Council's own race-specific statements about its activities and objectives. For example, NCLR says that it “welcomes affiliation from independent Hispanic groups” which share its goals; that it “assists Hispanic groups that are not formal Affiliates”; that it “supports and strengthens Hispanic community-based organizations nationwide—especially those that serve low-income and disadvantaged Hispanics”; that it seeks “to increase policymaker and public understanding of Hispanic needs and to encourage the adoption of programs and policies that equitably serve Hispanics”; that it serves “all Hispanic subgroups in all regions of the country”; and that its political and ideological message is “reaching millions of Hispanics each year.”
The Early Years
In 1974 Raul Yzaguirre began a 30-year tenure as NCLR's national director. Under his stewardship, NCLR in 1975 not only started to concentrate more heavily on public-policy issues but also began to “gradually broaden” its focus from one that was “solely on Mexican Americans,” to one that included all “Chicanos and other Hispanics.” This expanded constituency became official NCLR policy in 1979 when the organization's board of directors affirmed the Council's role as “an advocate for all Hispanics.”
The most prominent individual associated with the fledgling NCLR was the legendary union activist Cesar Chavez, who was elected to Council's board. He was unable to serve in any meaningful way, however, because of the demands of his principal occupation as head of the United Farm Workers of America.
Maclovio Barraza, a Tucson-based labor organizer who claimed that the injustices inherent in American society had turned Mexican Americans in the Southwestern U.S. into one of “the most disadvantaged segments of our society,” served as NCLR's board chairman during the organization's first 9 years. Notably, the federal government's Subversive Activities Control Board had identified Barraza as a Communist Party member.
NCLR's Opposition to Post-9/11 Homeland Security Policies
NCLR strongly opposed most of the U.S. government’s post-9/11 counterterrorism efforts—alleging, in most cases, that they “undermined” the rights of “noncitizen Latinos.” Some examples:
Current Programs of NCLR
To promote the interests of Hispanics in the United States, NCLR currently engages in research, policy analysis, and advocacy in 8 major program areas:
1) Advocacy & Empowerment
NCLR's Advocacy & Empowerment (A&E) program aims to help Latinos “assert” their “rightful place” in American society, where they “are suffering from higher rates of unemployment and foreclosure than other communities.” Asserting that “our [Latinos'] voting rights are threatened in states throughout the country,” the A&E program concentrates on “advocacy activities at state and local levels” and seeks to “strengthe[n] Latino participation in the political process.” It does this by “encouraging eligible applicants to become citizens”; “motivating citizens to register and vote”; and “creating a new generation of Latino leaders to educate voters about issues affecting Hispanics and to advocate for local, state, and national policies that will help build a strong Latino community and a stronger country.” Further, the A&E program helps non-citizen Hispanics to become citizens through its “Citizenship, It’s Time!” and “Citizenship Assistance” initiatives, the latter of which provides grants to naturalization programs run by community-based organizations. Similarly, A&E promotes Hispanic voter-registration and voter-mobilization through its “ya es hora ¡VE Y VOTA!” (“It’s Time, Go Vote!”) and Latino Empowerment and Advocacy projects. Some additional facts:
2) Children & Youth
NCLR's Children & Youth program was created to represent the interests of this “fastest-growing segment of the American population.” A key component of the program is its Líderes Initiative, a national campaign designed to “build the skills of Latino youth and increase their leadership capacity.”
3) Civil Rights & Justice
NCLR's Civil Rights & Justice (CRJ) program—founded on the premise that “discrimination severely limits the economic and social opportunities available to Hispanic Americans”—conducts civil rights-related policy analysis and advocacy activities “to promote and protect equality of opportunity in voting, justice issues, education, employment, housing, and health care for all Americans.”
A matter of particular concern to the CRJ program is racial profiling, which, according to La Raza, occurs “when an individual’s race or ethnicity is used to establish a cause for suspicion of a crime.” Such “tactics,” says NCLR, “not only violate civil rights, they also undermine the ability of law enforcement to enforce the law effectively” and cause Hispanics who are targeted to “los[e] trust in the integrity of law enforcement.” To address this issue, NCLR “works with policy-makers, law enforcement, and the community to eliminate the use of racial profiling.”
The CRJ program also focuses heavily on the matter of juvenile justice, lamenting that Hispanic youth: (a) “have disproportionate contact with all stages of the juvenile justice system, from being stopped by law enforcement to their arrest, detention, waiver to adult criminal court, and sentencing”; (b) are “at substantial risk of being detained with adults, which has been shown to lead to increased rates of recidivism and suicide”; and (c) need a range of special “services targeted specifically” toward them, including “greater access to culturally and linguistically competent delinquency-prevention services and alternatives to detention.” Among NCLR's more noteworthy publications on this subject are: School-to-Prison Pipeline: Zero Tolerance for Latino Youth; Reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act: The Impact on Latino Youth; Latino Youth in the Juvenile Justice System; and Latino Youth, Immigration, and the Juvenile Justice System.
4) Economy & Workforce
NCLR's Economy & Workforce program promotes policies to “boost Hispanic employment in good jobs, provide safe and fair workplaces, bridge Latino workers’ education and skills gaps, and offer a secure retirement.” One such policy is the Escalera initiative—created by NCLR in collaboration with (and through the support of) the PepsiCo Foundation and PepsiCo, Inc.—which seeks to “eliminate barriers to employment and economic mobility” by means of career exploration, technology skills development, leadership development, personal development, and academic support. In pusuit of a similar end, NCLR's Career Pathways Initiative aims to steer “low-skilled and limited-English-proficient” adults toward the “green, health care, and customer service sectors.”
NCLR's Education program is dedicated to “increasing educational opportunities, improving achievement, supporting college-readiness, and promoting equity in outcomes for Latinos.” Toward these ends, La Raza offers “capacity-building,” training, and technical assistance to help its Affiliates serve the needs of the Hispanic community “at each critical stage of the education pipeline.”
6) Health & Nutrition
NCLR's Health & Nutrition (H&N) program seeks to address the “widespread lack of health insurance and [the] inadequate supply of language services [that] currently … prevent Latinos from gaining access to quality care.” It also aims to “eliminate the incidence, burden, and impact of health and environmental problems in Latinos.” In pursuit of these goals, NCLR’s Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation conducts policy analysis and advocacy at the federal level.
NCLR's Immigration program calls for “comprehensive immigration reform” that would encourage “the 12 million undocumented people in our country to come forward, obtain legal status, learn English, and assume the rights and responsibilities of citizenship”; “crac[k] down on unscrupulous employers whose practices undermine conditions for all workers”; “unclo[g] legal channels to reunite families and allow future workers to come in with the essential rights and protections that safeguard our workforce”; and enact “proactive measures to advance the successful integration of new immigrants into our communities.”
8) Wealth Building
NCLR's Wealth-Building (WB) program, lamenting that “Latino families own just nine cents for every dollar owned by White families,” features a Housing and Community Development component and a Wealth-Building Policy Project devoted to “helping low-income Latino households build wealth through tangible assets, such as homes, cars, and savings.” Specifically, the WB program seeks to help Latinos purchase their first home, avoid foreclosure, access their tax refunds, and make prudent financial decisions. It also lobbies for policy changes that would “hold banks and lenders more accountable to Latino families for their services, protect against deceptive lending practices, and increase access to financial products and decision-making tools.”
NCLR's Charter Schools
NCLR supports a network of some 115 charter schools across the United States, to provide Hispanic children with "a better educational option than the nearby traditional public schools." A number of these charter schools openly advocate ethnic separatism and anti-American, anti-white attitudes. Some examples:
“Aztlan” and the Question of “Reconquista”
According to the late Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Georgia), NCLR teaches that “Colorado, California, Arizona, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and parts of Washington State make up an area known as 'Aztlán'—a fictional ancestral homeland of the Aztecs before Europeans arrived in North America.” Norwood stated that La Raza views this region as the rightful property of the government and people of Mexico, and thus seeks to bring about a Mexican “Reconquista” (“Reconquest”) of these southwestern states. But such a reconquest “won't end with territorial occupation and secession,” Norwood added. “The final plan for the La Raza movement includes the ethnic cleansing of Americans of European, African, and Asian descent out of 'Aztlán.'” Norwood also characterized NCLR as "a radical racist group … one of the most anti-American groups in the country, which has permeated U.S. campuses since the 1960s, and continues its push to carve a racist nation out of the American West."
John Stone, president of the U.S. Freedom Foundation and former chief of staff to Rep. Norwood, similarly maintains that NCLR has ties to a number of separatist Reconquista groups.
In 2007, La Raza's website stated explicitly that NCLR's mission is the “empowerment of our gente [people] and the liberation of Aztlán.”
NCLR, however, says it is a “misconception” to believe that it has ever, at any time, endorsed “the notion of a 'Reconquista' or 'Aztlán.'”
La Raza's Support of Separatist Groups
While claiming that it “has never supported, and does not support, separatist organizations,” NCLR acknowledges that in 2003 it provided the Georgetown University chapter of MEChA—an openly separatist Chicano student group—with a $2,500 grant. But NCLR defends that grant by asserting that MEChA's “primary objectives are educational—to help Latino students finish high school and go to college, and to support them while at institutions of higher education.”
It has been widely reported that NCLR's official motto is “Por La Raza Todo, Fuera de La Raza Nada,” which means “For The Race Everything, Outside the Race Nothing.” But NCLR says it “unequivocally rejects this statement, which is not and has never been the motto of any Latino organization.”
The Premise That America Is Racist, Hateful, and Discriminatory
NCLR has succeeded in defining, on its own terms, the parameters of the immigration debate by smearing critics of its agendas as “anti-immigrant” racists. Typical was a 2008 campaign called “We Can Stop the Hate.” Launched by NCLR with the assistance of the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), this campaign was overtly designed to silence critics who raised alarms about mass illegal immigration into the United States, and who opposed amnesty and open borders. The La Raza campaign portrayed such concerns as the “rhetoric of hate groups, nativists, and vigilantes.”
Some additional illustrations of NCLR's bedrock belief that America is inherently racist and unjust:
NCLR opposes legislation that would make English the official language of the United States. Former La Raza president Raul Yzaguirre once declared that “U.S. English”—America's oldest, largest citizens'-action group dedicated to preserving English as the national tongue—“is to Hispanics, as the Ku Klux Klan is to blacks.”
Strongly supportive of bilingual education and the provision of bilingual ballots for Spanish-speaking voters, NCLR in 1998 joined other left-wing groups in filing a lawsuit designed to prevent Proposition 227, California's ballot initiative for bilingual-education reform, from becoming state law.
NCLR Leadership and Major Figures
NCLR is governed by a Board of Directors that includes 21 elected members who are “representative of all geographic regions of the United States and all Hispanic subgroups.” The organization also receives guidance from a Corporate Board of Advisors, which consists of senior executives from 24 major corporations and their liaison staff. These corporations are: AT&T, Bank of America, Chevron, Citi, the Coca-Cola Company, Comcast Corporation, ConAgra Foods, Ford Motor Company, General Mills, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s Corporation, MillerCoors LLC, PepsiCo, Prudential, Shell, State Farm Insurance Companies, Time Warner Inc., Toyota Motor North America, UPS, Verizon, Walmart, and Wells Fargo. Moreover, NCLR has an Affiliate Council composed of executive directors and senior executive staff members from 12 community-based organizations affiliated with La Raza.
NCLR's president since 2005 has been Janet Murguía, who worked in Bill Clinton's White House from 1994-2000, ultimately serving as deputy assistant to the president. Murguía was subsequently the deputy campaign manager and director of constituency outreach for the Gore/Lieberman presidential campaign of 2000. In 2001, Murguía joined the University of Kansas as executive vice chancellor for university relations. When Arizona voters in 2004 approved Proposition 200, a public referendum requiring state residents to prove citizenship before registering to vote, and to prove citizenship or legal immigration status before applying for public benefits, Murguia characterized the measure as “anti-immigrant.” Moreover, Murguia contends that “hate speech” should “not be tolerated, even if such censorship were a violation of First Amendment rights.”
Other major figures in NCLR history, in addition to those previously mentioned, include Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (who is a longtime member of La Raza) and Cecilia Munoz (a longtime policy analyst with the organization).
NCLR's Think Tank
NCLR administers a Policy Analysis Center that it describes as America's preeminent Hispanic think tank. The Center's broad-based agenda encompasses such issues as immigration, education, free trade, affordable housing, health policy, and tax reform.
NCLR's Partners and Allies
NCLR works closely with the American Civil Liberties Union and the the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. It also shares major agendas and values with LatinoJustice PRLDF (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Further:
Support From Barack Obama
During his presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama addressed NCLR, lauding the organization for its "extraordinary" work.
For details of Obama's remarks, click here.
NCLR receives more than two-thirds of its funding from corporations and charitable foundations; the rest comes mostly from government sources. Among the foundations that have supported the organization are the Aetna Foundation, Allstate Foundation, the American Express Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the Bank of America Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Fannie Mae Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the HKH Foundation, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
To view a list of additional NCLR funders, click here.
In addition, as of February 2011, some 30 major corporations were officially listed as financial supporters of NCLR.
In 2011, a Judicial Watch investigation revealed that federal funding for NCLR and its affiliates had skyrocketed since President Barack Obama had hired its longtime senior policy analyst, Cecilia Muñoz, to be his director of intergovernmental affairs in 2009. During Muñoz's first year in the White House, government funds earmarked for La Raza totaled approximately $11 million—far above the $4.1 million figure for the previous year. Fully 60 percent of that $11 million came from the Department of Labor—headed by Hilda Solis, who has close ties to the La Raza movement. Further, in 2010 the Department of Housing and Urban Development gave NCLR $2.5 million to fund its housing-counseling program; the Department of Education contributed almost $800,000 to NCLR; and the Centers for Disease Control gave approximately $250,000.
Moreover, NCLR affiliates nationwide collected tens of millions of government grant and recovery dollars in 2010. An NCLR offshoot called Chicanos Por La Causa, for example, saw its federal funding nearly double to $18.3 million following Muñoz’s appointment. Ayuda Inc., which provides immigration law services and guarantees confidentiality to assure illegal aliens that they will not be reported to authorities, took in $600,000 in 2009 and $548,000 in 2010 from the Department of Justice. (The group had not received any federal funding between 2005 and 2008.)
 Deirdre Martinez, Who speaks for Hispanics?: Hispanic Interest Groups in Washington (SUNY Press, 2009), p.27.
 In addition to the $30 million which the Ford Foundation awarded to NCLR from 1972-2002, Ford also gave nearly $10 million more from 2003-2012. (Information courtesy of the Foundation Center)
 David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin, The New Leviathan (New York: Crown Forum, 2012).
(Information on granters courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)