Open Letter From Presente.org Regarding The Ongoing Controversy Surrounding Cecilia Muñoz
A few weeks ago, and after much deliberation, Presente.org made a very vocal and public demand to President Obama’s top immigration aide, Cecilia Muñoz: Stop being the voice of misinformation about policies that devastate our communities. Our decision to publicly demand that Muñoz set the record straight was a difficult one. But standing by and doing nothing while Ms. Muñoz defended the indefensible immigration policies of the Obama Administration was even more difficult.
In response, several immigrant advocacy organizations signed a letter that mischaracterized our position and missed the essence of our argument and of the moment. Our goal in this open letter is to restate and clarify our position, and to invite any other groups or individuals who seek to advance the cause of immigrant justice to join us in holding accountable any official whose rhetoric damages the cause of dignity and justice for our communities.
Our demand to Ms. Muñoz is that she stop mischaracterizing the actions of the Obama Administration and set the record straight about the SCOMM program. We have not called for Ms. Muñoz to resign or be fired.
Presente.org was moved to action following Ms. Muñoz’s widely-criticized appearance in the PBS documentary “Lost in Detention,” in which she repeated the falsehood that most of the people that the Administration prioritizes through the SCOMM racial profiling program are serious “criminals.”
The falsehood perpetuated by Muñoz has been thoroughly discredited by numerous studies like the one conducted last month by the Cardozo and Warren law schools, as well as by the administration’s own Department of Homeland Security records. Most importantly, Ms. Muñoz’s statements are disproven daily by the endless stream of tragic stories from the families of the “criminals” she says the Administration is deporting: men caught driving without a license or a broken tail light, women who call the police to report a domestic violence incident, and the rest of the non-criminal majority of people picked up, jailed and deported for non-violent offenses.
Neither the widely-circulated letter defending Ms. Muñoz nor its signatories have contested the facts that Presente.org and others have cited as the basis for demanding that Ms. Muñoz set the record straight. In fact, some of these same defenders of Ms. Muñoz have made statements against other Obama Administration officials and departments.
We deeply respect Ms. Muñoz’s previous work in defense of immigrants. That said, Presente.org wholly rejects the notion, suggested in the open letter defending her, that Ms. Muñoz’s past work and perceived moral compass means that she should not be held accountable for her current misstatements, and that doing so is somehow “personal.” This isn’t about personalities. It’s about leadership. When a Latina leader who has fought for immigrants then misrepresents and defends the Administration’s failed and profoundly destructive immigration policies, she sends a dangerous message to immigrant communities and to those who would continue to hurt immigrants: that Latinos believe the status quo is acceptable.
Silence in the face of Muñoz’s statements is dangerous; Silence is not an option.
Failure to demand from Muñoz what we would from any other elected or appointed official, in our opinion, means abdicating our responsibility as defenders of immigrants rights. So while it is difficult to criticize a longtime Latina leader, we have an obligation to step into the discomfort, and to do so boldly. Not doing so undermines our constituents, our mission and our very integrity. For this reason, we will continue calling on Muñoz to answer our demands and we invite others to join us and do the same.