KCK native influences the nation's immigration landscape

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - One of the people sculpting the nation's immigration landscape is a Kansas City, Kan., native.

Janet Murguia is so influential that she has had an office in the West Wing of the White House, and Presidents Obama, Clinton and George H.W. Bush have all asked for her advice.
Murguia is the president of La Raza,  the nation's largest Hispanic civil-rights organization.
Murguia, who grew up in KCK's Argentine neighborhood, was raised by immigrant parents who had no higher than a 7th-grade education.

She said her parents told her and her family -- now mayoral candidates, lawyers and federal judges -- that they could do anything if they had an education.

On Mother's Day, Murguia gave her parents credit for her success.

Murguia remembered a line her father always used to use: "He would say 'El sol sala para todos' .. the sun shines for everyone. That meant ... there would be opportunity for everyone."

Now, years later, Murguia is influencing what may happen to the 11 million undocumented workers living in America.
She said she recently offered the president this advice: "We need to be able to find a way to require them to come forward, to pay back taxes, to pay their fines and to learn English, go to the back of the line and a chance at becoming citizens."

Opponents have said it is amnesty; rewarding people who have broken the law with a chance to live in the United States. They have said the proposed reforms will have a negative impact on the domestic job market, warning the bill would not be helpful for Americans seeking employment.

Murguia said, "By requiring the 11 million to come forward, we're leveling the playing field."

Lawmakers are sparring over the most comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration policies in decades.

A Senate committee is looking at a bipartisan bill that outlines a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, plus tighter border security.
A few years ago, Murguia pulled La Raza from Kansas City, Mo.'s convention schedule to protest then-Mayor Mark Funkhouser's appointment of a Minuteman member, a group that conducts armed patrols on the border, to the city parks board.

Murguia reflected, "Mark Funkhouser made a few mistakes."

Now she's bringing the convention back to Kansas City in 2015, with thousands of attendees and likely presidential candidates participating.

"It's not lost on folks that Hispanics represent 50 percent of the growth, according to the last U.S. Census," Murguia said. "I think it's no different in Kansas City. We've seen the growth in the Hispanic community take hold here, too."


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