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Cecilia Munoz

Date of birth : 1962-07-27
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Detroit, Michighan, U.S
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-06-24

Cecilia Munoz, born July 27, 1962 in Detroit, Michigan, United States is an American rights advocate .


Appointed the director of intergovernmental affairs for President Barack Obama's administration in 2008, Cecilia Munoz, long known for her outspoken advocacy, became one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the government when she took office in 2009. A lifelong advocate for Hispanic rights and the closely tied immigrant rights issues, Munoz has built a career on speaking up for the downtrodden and disenfranchised.

Daughter of Immigrants

The youngest child of Bolivian immigrants from La Paz, Munoz was born on July 27, 1962, in Detroit, Michigan. The family had come to the United States so her automotive engineer father could attend the University of Michigan, the same school Munoz would eventually attend after completing high school.

At the University of Michigan, Munoz majored in English and Latin American studies. While in college, she volunteered at a local prison in Jackson, tutoring Hispanic inmates. This experience was instrumental in solidifying her ties to the Hispanic culture and community.

For graduate school, Munoz chose the University of California at Berkeley, and after completing her master's degree, she took a job with the Catholic Diocese in Chicago in 1984, working as an advocate to legalize undocumented immigrants in the area under President Reagan's amnesty program. The work was long, intense, and fulfilling, and Munoz was able to legalize more than 5,000 people, but she would eventually opt to leave in part due to sexism with the church leadership.

In 1988 she joined the National Council of La Raza, a lobbying and advocacy group for Hispanics. At La Raza, Munoz was senior vice president for the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation. She acted as an advisor to then-candidate Obama on immigration issues, making her appointment to the intergovernmental affairs post a natural one. Munoz told the AARP that "the biggest change will be shifting my role as an advocate outside the government to someone who is part of the government itself."

Tireless Advocate

Although she had never held public office prior to her appointment in the Obama administration, Munoz's professional career had centered around the hot button issues confronting the United States in the early 2000s. A passionate advocate for immigrant rights and Hispanic rights, Munoz has never been a shy wallflower about her opinion on what is right. In fact, the MacArthur Foundation awarded her an unrestricted $500,000 "Genius Grant" fellowship in June of 2000 for her tireless, effective work with La Raza.

One of her higher profile actions was in response to President Bill Clinton's 1996 welfare reform bill, which repealed Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and food stamp eligibility for legal immigrants. Munoz moved rapidly and decisively to tell the stories of the people affected by the cuts, and was successful in bringing about a reversal of the SSI withdrawal within the year. Research conducted under her watch demonstrated the economic contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy to be around $10 billion.

In addition to her work with La Raza, Munoz served as chair of the board for the Center of Community Change, on the U.S. Programs board of the Open Society Institute, and on the board of directors for Atlantic Philanthropies.

She and her husband, Amit Munoz-Pandya, a human rights attorney, have two daughters, Cristina and Meera. Munoz told the Washington Post that "the line between anti-immigrant and anti-Latino is pretty thin. The day when my kids can walk down the street and be called American, that's the goal."


AWARDS
MacArthur Foundation fellowship, 2000.


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