In protest of AILA 2015 Annual Conference Keynote Speaker Cecilia Muñoz


To my great dismay as a member, the American Immigration Lawyers Association has recently announced that Cecila Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, will be the AILA 2015 Annual Conference Keynote Speaker.

A keynote address or speech is defined as "an address designed to present the issues of primary interest to an assembly (as a political convention) and often to arouse unity and enthusiasm. It sets the tone for the event, and is generally reflective of an organization. For example, the Keynote speaker at the Ronald Reagan Dinner at CPAC (the big conservative political event) this year is Indiana Governor Mike Pence for his stances against LGBT civil rights. In general, an organization does not invite someone whose work is antithetical to its agenda to give a keynote address.

Cecilia Muñoz was once a passionate advocate for immigrants. Unfortunately, her stint working for the Obama Administration (the worst administration for immigrant rights in my lifetime, and I voted for the President twice and organized for him in the Democratic primary the first time around) has turned her into an apologist for the Deporter-in-Chief and a defender of family detention policies. Under no circumstances should she be our keynote.

Federal district court judge Dolly Gee has indicated that the practice of family detention is in violation of the 1997 Flores settlement, and in response, this Administration has threatened to release child prisoners (only when forced to do so) but to continue to detain mothers and separate families. The Obama Administration is fully in the wrong, both legally and morally, and it should and will lose the battle to score political points on the backs of refugee mothers and children fleeing violence and seeking legal asylum in the United States.

There is a movement afoot to both: (1) lobby AILA to rescind its invitation to Cecilia Muñoz; and (2) organize a protest of the keynote speech should she give it.

This issue is personal to me, as I one time I greatly admired Cecilia Muñoz. As Ruben Navarette said, better than I could, (

A former vice president of the National Council of La Raza, Munoz is now the director of intergovernmental affairs for the White House. Although you might have thought that she was really the head of ICE, given that the former immigrant rights activist is cynically being put forth to defend - in both English- and Spanish-language media - the administration's immigration policies. Either by design or by accident, she has morphed into the administration's chief apologist.
When asked on a recent episode of PBS' "Frontline" about the fact that thousands of families have been broken apart due to the policies of this administration, Munoz coldly gave the company line.


At the end of the day," she told PBS correspondent Maria Hinojosa, "when you have immigration law that's broken and you have a community of 10 million, 11 million people living and working in the United States illegally, some of these things are going to happen. Even if the law is executed with perfection, there will be parents separated from their children. It is a result of having a broken system of laws."

What a disgraceful answer. This bureaucratic body count is piling up on Obama's watch, and at his direction. And Munoz wants us to believe there is nothing the president can do about it.

Are you sure she doesn't work for ICE? She seems to have it in her veins.

This is baffling, given that AILA itself has taken a position publicly against the shame of family detention. Cecilia Muñoz, on the other hand, has legitimated this Administration's shameful response to the flood of Central American refugees, and claimed in the media that the majority of them will lose their cases.

Cecilia Muñoz has no place as our keynote speaker. If you are an AILA member and would like to add your voice to our opposition to the selection of Cecilia Muñoz as the AILA 2015 Annual Conference keynote speaker, calling out the Administration on their illegal imprisonment of children in violation of Flores and in bitter memory of Japanese internment, please e-mail with the Subject line “Disinvite Muñoz" and your statement of support.

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Amy Maldonado practices immigration law in Houston, Texas