- Immigrant-rights activist
- President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza / UnidosUS
- Served as President Bill Clinton’s deputy assistant
Janet Murguia was born to Mexican immigrant parents on September 6, 1960, in Kansas City, Kansas, and she grew up in the city’s Argentine district. Thanks in part to financial aid grants, she received two undergraduate degrees (in journalism and Spanish) from the University of Kansas (KU) in 1982, and a Juris Doctor from the KU School of Law in 1985. Three of Murguia’s siblings also graduated from law school, two of them going on to become U.S. district court judges.
After completing her formal education, Murguia went to Washington, D.C. and took a job as legislative counsel to Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery of Kansas. She subsequently worked for President Bill Clinton from 1994-2000, serving variously as a deputy director of legislative affairs, a senior liaison to Congress, and ultimately as Clinton’s deputy assistant.
In 2000, Murguia served as deputy campaign manager and director of constituency outreach for the Al Gore/Joe Lieberman presidential ticket.
From 2001-04, Murguia was the Executive Vice Chancellor for University Relations at her alma mater, KU, overseeing public and governmental affairs for the university.
In 2005, Murguia was named president/CEO of the largest Hispanic lobbying organization in the United States, the National Council of La Raza (which was later renamed UnidosUS). She continues to hold that position. As of April 2018, UnidosUS had registered some 500,000 new Hispanic voters, at least 200,000 of them during Murguia’s tenure at the helm.
In a statement she issued during a May 22, 2007 House Committee hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Murguia said that a key component of any attempt to fix America’s “broken immigration system” would be the creation of “a realistic pathway [to citizenship] for undocumented immigrants” who were living “in the shadows of society.” “Each day that passes,” she lamented, “another person dies on the U.S.-Mexico border, another American child is separated from her immigrant parents due to workplace raids, another worker is exploited in the workplace, and another Hispanic American encounters hostility or worse as a result of tension over this issue.”
In 2008, Murguia became the first Hispanic to give the keynote speech at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast held in Birmingham, Alabama.
In 2015, Murguia was a signatory to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s “Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality” in America, a 14-point plan that called not only for “comprehensive immigration reform,” but also for tax hikes on high earners, and for the implementation or expansion of publicly funded entitlement programs.
In a 2016 article published at PBS.org, Murguia argued against calls for what she described as “a fiscal austerity agenda that prioritizes deficit reduction,” advocating instead for ever-greater federal expenditures on “climate change, comprehensive tax reform, and comprehensive immigration reform.” “The changing demographics of this country and the exponential growth of workers of color in the next few decades compel us to address racial inequities that also serve as a hindrance to financial gains,” she wrote. “That means making sure that reducing discrimination and achieving equality are also essential components of fostering American prosperity going forward.”
In another article published by PBS in 2016, Murguia stated that “gaining legal status” for “undocumented immigrants” represents “just one part of the immigration journey in this country,” and she emphasized that “much more attention needs to be given and more policy-making needs to happen around the issue of immigrant integration.” Thus, explained Murguia, America has a “moral imperative” to allocate large sums of taxpayer money to “funding for English classes, job training, adult education, and childcare” on behalf of newly legalized immigrants. Moreover, Murguia cited a pair of complementary studies in which the Center for American Progress and the America Action Forum had concluded that while any effort to deport a large number of illegals would place a terrible strain on the national economy, an amnesty program would add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over a ten-year period.
Denouncing a 2017 House Republican bill that aimed to make a number of revisions to Obamacare, Murguia characterized the legislation as a “cruel and unconscionable” attempt to “inflict significant pain on millions of Americans, including Latino families.”
In September 2017, Murguia condemned, as a “travesty,” President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action by which former President Barack Obama had granted temporary protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who originally had come to the U.S. as minors. Trump’s “unspeakably cruel and gratuitous” announcement, said Murguia, demonstrated that he “has again chosen to appease the bigots in his base rather than do what is in the best interest of the country.”
Over the years, Murguia has sat on the boards of the Independent Sector, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, and the Merrill Lynch Diversity & Inclusion Council. She also has served on the Kauffman Foundation Youth Development Board, and on the executive committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
For additional information on Janet Murguia, click here.
Further Reading: Biographical information from Issuu.com, Linked In, Facebook, Valledelsol.com, and Unidosus.org; “Key to America’s Prosperity? Bold Economic Policies That Address Racial Inequities” (by Janet Murguia, PBS.org, 7-19-2016); “America Once Excelled at Immigrant Integration. Here’s the Way Back.” (by Janet Murguia, PBS.org, 7-27-2016); “Trump’s Decision to End DACA Is Morally Bankrupt” (UnidosUS.org, 9-5-2017).