Let’s Focus on What Matters

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Photo: Gage Skidmore
Photo: Gage Skidmore

It seems that we in the Latino community are not exempt from this election’s silly season. This week Buzzfeed published an article stating that the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA)—a 25-year-old coalition of the 40 largest Latino organizations in the country—was “kicking out” Presente, an online organization that aims to amplify Latino voices, because of its attack this week on HUD Secretary Julián Castro. This is false. And apparently reporting from the future, kos of Daily Kos took this unsubstantiated and unconfirmed rumor as fact and even ascribed motivations to why it was done: “old school” Latino organizations objecting to criticism of a Latino leader.

Here’s what actually happened: on Tuesday, a group of organizations—including Presente— sent a letter criticizing Secretary Castro for seeming to favor Wall Street companies over Black and Latino homeowners when it comes to the mortgage crisis.

It is fair to raise the issue of how much the federal government has done to help the homeowners most affected by the foreclosure crisis. NCLR has worked on this issue for nearly a decade with sister organizations like the National Urban League to save thousands of such homes from foreclosure. We have also long been critical of underachieving efforts such as the Home Affordable Modification Program. Where some—including NCLR—took issue with the letter is that the signatories suggest that this was proof that Castro was not a progressive and that he should be “disqualified” as a potential VP pick as a result. This seems excessive at best, and at worst it seems unfair in light of Castro’s record and body of work.

Let me state very clearly that NCLR does not and would not support any NHLA action against Presente for having a difference of opinion, nor is NHLA considering such action.

Organizations in coalitions do not march in lockstep and we have been part of more than one heated discussion and debate. The members of NHLA have disagreed on countless occasions and no one has ever been kicked out. But I also want to make very clear that no one is immune from criticism—not Secretary Castro, not President Obama, not NCLR, or NHLA, and certainly not Presente.

As an organization, we will continue to call ‘em as we see ‘em under our guiding principle of what is in the best interests of our community and our country. Let’s agree—once again—to disagree—once again—because we have a lot on our plate, whether it’s immigration, housing, bigotry, voting rights, health care, or jobs.

Let’s, instead, celebrate what we have accomplished, such as yesterday’s decision by the FDA to grant a petition from NCLR, the March of Dimes, Gruma Corporation, and the Spina Bifida Association. This decision will allow corn flour products to be fortified with folic acid—as wheat flour has been for decades—and will dramatically reduce Spina Bifida and other birth defects among Latino children. And with the Supreme Court about to hear oral arguments on the president’s DACA/DAPA executive action on Monday, the resulting decision will have profound consequences for millions of Latino families and our country. Let’s focus on actual issues that will move our community forward.

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