Founded in 1981, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund (NALEO EF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was established by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), a membership organization whose constituency includes more than 6,000 Latino political figures throughout the United States. NALEO EF’s mission is “to incorporate Latinos into the American political system from citizenship to public service.” It does this through a number of “non-partisan” campaigns aimed at naturalizing new citizens, registering voters, and getting Latinos — both legal and illegal — to participate in the U.S. Census. NALEO EF is also part of the open-borders lobby, operating as a co-founding member of the We Are America Alliance, a progressive network seeking to secure amnesty for illegal aliens.
Arturo Vargas, a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, is the Executive Director of both NALEO and its Educational Fund. Vargas formerly served as the Vice President for Community Education and Public Policy at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and as a policy analyst at the National Council of La Raza, and In addition to his current duties with NALEO EF, Vargas also serves on the boards of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation, Hispanics in Philanthropy, the Independent Sector, the National Civic League, and the National Immigration Forum. Since 2006, Vargas has been a key figure in implementing programs and campaigns to help Latino immigrants become naturalized citizens. In 2010, the Mexican government awarded Vargas the Ohtli Medallion, its highest honor, for his contributions to the empowerment of Mexican and Mexican American communities.
In 2007, NALEO EF worked alongside Entravisión Communications, ImpreMedia, the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the Service Employees International Union, and Univisión Communications to coordinate the California-based “Ya Es Hora” (It’s Time!) campaign. By 2008, “Ya Es Hora” had led to a doubling in the number of newly naturalized citizens in California. Describing the vast scope of NALEO EF’s outreach efforts, Arturo Vargas said: “You could not go throughout Los Angeles and not be bombarded with the message that it’s time to become a citizen.”
Building on its success in California, NALEO EF’s “Ya Es Hora” grew into a national campaign in 2008, continuing to promote naturalization and initiating the second phase of the project, voter registration. As Vargas explained, millions of new citizens at the ballot box will ultimately create the necessary momentum to transform America’s immigration system.
In 2009, NALEO EF launched the third phase of its campaign, “Ya Es Hora, Hagase Contar!” (It’s Time, Make Yourself Count!). Promoting the 2010 Census as a pathway to increased power for Latinos, NALEO EF exhorted Latinos to fill out their Census forms and mail them back to the Census Bureau. Arturo Vargas described the Census in progressive terms, first as a tool to redistribute wealth and power, and second as part of the history of American racism:
“The Census is about two simple things: Money and Power. Two things that no one freely gives up. And two things we must insist our community gets the share of resources and political influence we have earned and deserve….
“[T]he Census is also this nation’s legacy of racism and iniquity, because it was in the Census that certain residents of this country were determined to be less than a full person or less than human […] With a full Census comes the potential for full representation or accurate representation in the Congress and for all the other purposes that data are used — to redistribute political power, for redistricting, and the Census data today are also used for the distribution of about $1 trillion of public funds to the states and localities.”
Because of the Census’ potential as an agent of redistribution, NALEO EF fought to have illegal aliens counted in the 2010 Census without being required to indicate their immigration status. When Republican Senators David Vitter (Louisiana) and Robert Bennett (Utah) proposed (in October 2009) an amendment requiring all Census-form filers to answer a question regarding their immigration status, NALEO EF immediately depicted the proposal as a racist measure:
“In 1868, our nation adopted the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that repealed the provision which only counted slaves as three-fifths of a person. The Vitter-Bennett amendment evokes this shameful legacy, and is an effort to make a fundamental change to our Constitution through appropriations legislation.”