Speaker after speaker captured differing pieces of this truth:
The year 2015 is far removed from the worries of the last time the National Council of La Raza planned its national convention for Kansas City.
Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo on Tuesday gracefully put to rest the disgrace that laid the groundwork for the NCLR conference to be held this July, rather than six summers before. Circo avoided mentioning former mayor Mark Funkhouser by name.
But he was the one who set in motion a backlash that caused the civil rights organization to yank its 2009 convention from the city. Funkhouser appointed a woman to the parks board who had joined a local fledgling Minuteman group known for illogical rants against immigrants and patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border. He wouldn’t back down, even after the woman said she didn’t want to be on the board.
The past controversy feels so distant. Now there is wide support for and understanding of the conference’s importance. And there is the good luck of timing. National attention looks more at the Latino population, a reflection of its growing clout.
Circo’s remarks came at a luncheon held by the Central Exchange as a lead-up to the convention. Those attending represented a wide range of bistate elected leadership and a host of other influential people.
Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland said the convention will be an opportunity to showcase the economic boons from the area’s strong immigrant history. He noted that KCK has no ethnic majority and mirrors national trends in the way immigration leads its population growth. Janet Murguía, president and CEO of NCLR, is also a Kansas City, Kan., native.
Past NCLR conferences have drawn Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Given that campaigning for the 2016 presidential race is gearing up, appearances by politicians courting votes and limelight are all but guaranteed for the Kansas City event.
Murguía has played a major advocacy role for Hispanic attainments in business, education and other needs, including immigration. She has called out Obama for his record-breaking numbers of deportations, labeling him the “deporter in chief.” But she has pressed equally hard for comprehensive reforms that can only come with bipartisan support.
“We can find a common-sense solution for folks to get right with the law.”