Now, a petition drive by the grass-roots group Presente.org demands that Munoz “return to her roots” and retract the “inaccurate” statements she has made in defense of Obama. And a number of Hispanic bloggers are calling for her resignation, including one who branded her a “Latina spokesmodel for Obama’s immigration policy.”
The tension will be evident Thursday in Phoenix, where a group of illegal immigrants and their families and allies are planning to confront Munoz at a National League of Cities event where she is scheduled to speak.
Immigration advocates have been agitating against Obama since 2009, angry that overhauling immigration policy seemed to take a back seat even as he amped up enforcement. The administration announced last month that it had deported about 397,000 people in fiscal year 2011, bringing the total deported under Obama to more than 1 million — more than under any other administration.
But it is the activists’ recent decision to take on Munoz that has added a cultural twist to the debate.
‘Turned her back’
The 49-year-old daughter of Bolivan parents has often been described as a ferocious activist unafraid to challenge lawmakers and presidents in defense of immigrants. And, at least until now, she has been a key voice for Obama in reaching Hispanic voters, who are viewed as central to the president’s reelection strategy in the must-win battlegrounds of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
“It appears that Cecilia has turned her back on the important legacy she left as an immigrant rights advocate,” said Roberto Lovato, co-founder of Presente.org. “Cecilia Munoz has made a 180-degree move from being a champion for immigrants to being the No. 1 defender of a horrendous immigration policy.”
A White House spokesman, Luis Miranda, said Munoz would not comment for this story. Instead, Miranda e-mailed a statement blaming Republican lawmakers for blocking immigration overhaul efforts.
The administration, he said, has made “dramatic improvements” in the country’s enforcement system. That includes policies ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to prioritize deportations of criminals, people who were deported and then returned, and recent illegal border-crossers.
Responding to criticism, administration officials in August pledged to conduct a case-by-case review of pending deportation proceedings and suspend low-priority cases such as those that would remove students who were brought to the United States at a young age — though officials concede that the review has not fully begun yet.