National Council of La Raza

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National Council of La Raza

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is the largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the United States. The NCLR was founded in 1968 as a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing discrimination and poverty and to improving the lives and economic opportunities of Hispanic Americans. The NCLR has over 270 formal affiliates serving 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These affiliates, along with a nationwide network of more than 30,000 groups and individuals, provides information and services to more than 3.5 million Hispanics annually.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the NCLR has field offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. These offices focus on program operations, management, and governance, as well as resource development. The NCLR Washington, D.C.-based Policy Analysis Center is a major Hispanic "think tank" that is known for its political independence, its advocacy expertise, and its extensive analysis of issues affecting Hispanics nationwide. The NCLR has given public testimony and commentary on topics concerning Civil Rights, tax policy, free trade, affordable housing, employment and training, and health care. The organization's Census Information Center (CIC) functions as a national clearinghouse for census data and other information regarding Hispanics in the United States.

In addition to implementing "big picture" strategies such as policy research and analysis, the NCLR also concentrates its efforts on detailed "capacity-building" tactics aimed at working with local community-based Hispanic groups in both urban and rural areas throughout the United States and its territories. The NCLR has long espoused a philosophy of self-help and collaboration. Unlike many advocacy organizations that provide help only to their own local chapters, the NCLR gives resources and assistance to other local Hispanic organizations, especially those that aid low-income and disadvantaged Hispanics. The organization also sponsors "issue networks" that provide information and assistance on such issues as HIV/AIDS, health, education and leadership.

In order to more closely relate the national policy aspects of its work with the grassroots views of its constituents, the NCLR has also established "local policy centers" at six of its community-based affiliates. In addition, the NCLR works with other major groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the oldest Hispanic advocacy organization in the United States, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), which was founded in 1968 as the legal arm of LULAC.

The NCLR works closely with the private sector and has established a Corporate Board of Advisors consisting of senior executives and staff from 25 major corporations. The advisory board provides information and assistance to the NCLR on numerous programs and projects, from education and health initiatives to public relations and fund-raising. The NCLR has broad-based financial support. The organization receives more than two-thirds of its funding from corporations and foundations; the rest comes from government sources.

In all of its efforts, the NCLR focuses on cooperation and collaboration. NCLR staff work with various issue-based coalitions and associations on topics ranging from energy conservation to Welfare reform. The NCLR also undertakes joint projects with other major national organizations such as the National Urban League and the NAACP.

The NCLR authors major reports, for example, the 1995 report that analyzed the effect of computer verification procedures, the use of identification cards, and immigration policies on Hispanic Americans; a 1996 report on the impact of federal tax policy on Hispanic working families; and a 1998 statistical report on the educational status of Hispanics. It also authors numerous publications and publishes a quarterly newsletter, Agenda.

Because the Hispanic American population consists of a diverse number of groups including Mexican Americans, Chicanos, and Latin Americans, the need for an organization that can recognize the diversity and also still provide unity of purpose is paramount. NCLR President Raul Yzaguirre, who joined the NCLR in 1974, had in 2003 led the organization for more than 25 years. The NCLR has a 33-member board of directors and its bylaws require that board members be geographically diverse and that they represent various nationality groups. According to the information published in the 2000 U.S. Census, Hispanics have surpassed African Americans as the largest ethnic group in the United States. Between immigration and native births, the Hispanic population increased 58 percent in the 1990s to 35.3 million in 2000. In light of these demographic changes, the NCLR constituency plays a larger role in U.S. politics and economics.

Further readings

National Council of La Raza. Available online at <www.nclr.org> (accessed July 28, 2003).

Olmos, Edward James, ed. 1999. Americanos: Latino Life in the United States. Boston: Little Brown.

Portes, Alejandro. 2001. Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Suro, Roberto. 1998. Strangers Among Us: How Latino Immigration is Transforming America. New York: Knopf.

Cross-references

Civil Rights Acts; Discrimination; Equal Protection; Mexico and the United States.

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