Obama Official Under Fire After “Lost in Detention” Interview

November 10, 2011
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The Obama administration’s immigration policies have outraged many Latino activists.  And according to The Washington Post, one person in particular has become the prime target of their ire: Cecilia Muñoz.

Muñoz, the former senior vice president for the National Council of La Raza and a MacArthur “genius” grant winner for her work on immigration and civil rights, is now one of President Obama’s top advisers on immigration. In an interview with Maria Hinojosa for our recent film Lost in Detention, Muñoz defended the administration’s record number of deportations, claiming that their hands are tied until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform — something that’s extremely unlikely in today’s political climate.

According to the Post, many of Muñoz’s comments in the interview — and in particular her claim in the above video that “of the 400,000 people removed in the last year, about half of them are serious criminals under the definition in immigration law” — don’t ring true for groups like Presente, who argue that most “‘criminals’ [are] being deported for non-violent offenses.”

In a petition, Presente says, “We want our advocate back”:

In 2008, you left your job as an advocate for the Latino community to work in the White House. Ms. Muñoz, it is time for you to come home to your community. It is time to tell the truth and stop defending the indefensible.

It is unclear how many people have signed the petition thus far.

As Muñoz heads to speak at a National League of Cities event in Phoenix today, a group of undocumented immigrants and other activists plan to confront her. Felipe Matos is the a Presente organizer who will present a letter from the group to Muñoz. In a press release, he stated:

Cecilia Muñoz knows very well that most undocumented immigrants are not criminals—we are students, workers, and parents who are part of communities all over the country and who have done nothing wrong. We challenge Ms. Muñoz to show us, to show Latino voters, and to show the world why and how the majority of those the Obama Administration is persecuting, jailing and deporting are “criminals”—a fact that records from the Department of Homeland Security cannot even back up.

According to the DHS’s 2011 numbers, about 55 percent of the almost 397,000 people deported had criminal records, ranging from felonies to misdemeanors. The Post reports that only about 75,000 people deported fell into the most violent category — having been convicted of one aggravated felony or two felonies — and another 46,000 had been convicted of one felony or three or more misdemeanors.

Read Cecilia Muñoz’s full interview with Maria Hinojosa here.

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