* Hispanic activist and open-borders advocate
* Former President of the National Council of La Raza
* Was named co-chair of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007
Born to Mexican-American parents on July 22, 1939 in San Juan, Texas, and raised in southern Texas, Raul Yzaguirre is a Hispanic civil rights activist and an open borders advocate. In 1964 he founded the National Organization for Mexican American Services, whose grant proposal to the Ford Foundation prompted the latter to begin funding Mexican American causes in the latter part of the decade. In 1974 he became President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a position he would hold for thirty years before stepping down in 2004.
Yzaguirre has long condemned organizations (such as US English) that call for English to remain the primary language spoken in the United States. “US English is to Hispanics as the Ku Klux Klan is to blacks,” he said in the 1990s.
In 2001, NCLR formed focus groups to study how the American public felt about the word “amnesty” vis a vis immigration policy. After the focus groups reported that the public’s reaction was extremely negative, Yzaguirre advised then-Mexican President Vicente Fox to avoid using the term ever again. He urged Fox instead to employ such euphemisms as “regularization,” “legalization,” “normalization,” “permanence,” “earned adjustment,” and “phased-in access to earned regularization.”
In Yzaguirre’s view, illegal aliens are best described as “hardworking people who are paying taxes, who are helping this economy.” “They are benefiting you and I,” he adds. “They’re making it possible for you to send your grandmother to a nursing home to get taken care of.…[T]hey are creating jobs, not taking away jobs.”
Yzaguirre opposes the imposition of sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants, claiming that such policies create “massive levels of discrimination against Hispanics.”
In fact, Yzaguirre rejects the very use of the term “illegal.” “Why are we calling them illegals?” he asked Pat Buchanan during a 2001 debate. “If you [are] calling them illegals you’ve got to call every employer an illegal, every consumer an illegal, everybody who hires them an illegal. Let’s — if you are going to paint somebody with that brush,…let’s be equal about it. You are talking about a police state.…Draconian steps that would create a police state based on fear-mongering.” He then told Buchanan that modern-day illegals “did [the] same thing that your ancestors did.” When Buchanan replied that his forebears “came here legally,” Yzaguirre retorted: “What’s the difference? You can change the laws?”
In 2003 the Aetna Foundation presented Yzaguirre with its “Voice of Conscience” award for “his lifelong commitment to improving opportunities for Hispanic Americans” and “[h]is devotion to removing racial and cultural boundaries.”
In 2004 Yzaguirre characterized the Border Patrol’s arrest of illegals in a number of southern California communities as “a clear assault on civil rights in an area with a sizable Latino population.”
An endorser of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, Yzaguirre expressed his hope that the mass immigration rallies which were held across the United States in the spring of 2006 would galvanize support for an immigration-reform bill to grant legal status to illegal aliens already living in the U.S.
On April 12, 2007, it was announced that Yzaguirre would co-chair the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton and would direct her outreach efforts to Hispanic voters. Said Yzaguirre: “Hillary Clinton has spent more than three decades advocating on behalf of those who are invisible in America. Not only is she the most experienced and qualified candidate to be president, Senator Clinton has the ability to bring people together to get results and move this country forward.”
Yzaguirre is the founder of Inter-American Research Associates, the largest Hispanic management consulting group in the United States. He received the Order of the Aztec Eagle award, the highest honor given by the government of Mexico to non-citizens, and he was the first Hispanic to receive a Rockefeller Public Service Award from Princeton University. He presently serves as a Board member of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), the United Way of America, the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Enterprise Foundation, the National Democratic Institute, Sears, and the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility.
Yzaguirre is also the Executive Director of the Center for Community Development and Civil Rights at Arizona State University – Phoenix campus. Aiming to “build bridges between the University and the Latino community,” the Center is a partner of both the Raza Development Fund (a project of NCLR) and the Ford Foundation.
Yzaguirre was a signatory to the 1998 Statement of Principles of the New Century Alliance for Social Security, a coalition of groups opposed to Social Security privatization, organized by the Institute for America’s Future. Other signers included Brent Blackwelder, Heather Booth, Nancy Duff Campbell, Marian Wright Edelman, Mike Farrell, Roger Hickey, Patricia Ireland, Jesse Jackson, Steven Kest, Norman Lear, Kweisi Mfume, Robert Reich, Susan Shaer, Eleanor Smeal, Andrew Stern, and John Sweeney.
Yzaguirre has been described as a “close friend” of Jose Angel Gutierrez. He has shared platforms with Gutierrez, having lectured with him at activist meetings.
On July 1, 2022, Yzaguirre was awarded a Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden.