The only mistake Biden shouldn't have made: Adding Cecilia Muñoz to his transition team
Cecilia Muñoz, a former Obama administration official, was the public face of that administration’s immigration policy.
The name 'Cecilia Muñoz' may sound familiar to you. It's from what now seems like a distant time in the decade of the 2010s.
Muñoz was part of the Obama-era White House Domestic Policy Council, where she served as the director. She was the first Hispanic to ever serve in the position.
While it was an accolade and stride for the advancement of Latinos in high government positions, what her title involved was be the spokesperson for the administration's deportation policies.
Muñoz's parents originally migrated from Bolivia to Detroit, and she grew up around very few Latinos other than her own family.
Her work in immigration and advocacy started with Catholic Charities in Chicago, where she asked the organization about how'd they help immigrants obtain citizenship.
The question led to a 1986 immigration reform law and left Muñoz in charge of the Catholic Charities legalization program at 24.
Her next step was the National Council of La Raza — now known as UnidosUS — a Latino advocacy organization, where she was the Vice President of Policy.
Once she joined the Obama administration as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Muñoz became the administration's domestic policy council director for five years and intergovernmental affairs director for three.
Muñoz was to try to answer questions about the growing number of deportations and detentions of undocumented immigrants — a move that would earn Obama the title of "Deporter in Chief" — as well as the rapid expansion of immigration enforcement programs such as Secure Communities.
Similarly, the director had to try to argue the lack of short-term administrative relief in the absence of an immigration reform bill.
As the media continued to press, Muñoz also echoed the Republican blame to Congress for failing to pass an immigration reform bill that would help the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in the country.
In a 2011 interview with Maria Hinojosa on PBS Frontline, Muñoz said, "As long as Congress gives us the money to deport 400,000 people a year, that's what the administration will do."
Over the Labor Day weekend, Biden's transition team announced a list of new profiles — including advisors and co-chairs — tasked with staffing a potential administration, should it win the election next November.
"This is a transition like no other, and the team being assembled will help Joe Biden meet the urgent challenges facing our country on day one," said former Senator and longtime Biden aide Ted Kaufman, who is heading up the transition team.
According to Politico, the new group represents "a mix of the left and the center, with many veterans of the Obama administration."
Among them are Felicia Wong, Pete Buttigieg, Bob McDonald, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Jeff Zients, Anita Dunn, and Cedric Richmond.
Similarly, and to the surprise of many, the Biden team announced the addition of Muñoz as a staff member and transition adviser, according to The Hill.
Reactions, as expected, were deeply divided, between those who consider the November elections to be a decision between "the lesser of two evils," and those who remember the Obama era with melancholy.
Erika Andiola, an immigrant rights activist and advocacy director for The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, called it a "huge mistake."
"Worst part? We have no other option. I guess we gotta pick our opponent. That's what it has come down to," she wrote on Twitter.
Huge mistake. Huge. Huge mistake. Worst part? We have no other option. I guess we gotta pick our opponent. That’s what it has come down to.
Background: Cecilia Munoz plaid a huge role in the millions of deportations under Obama. https://t.co/DNT3GoOjng
— Erika Andiola (@ErikaAndiola) September 8, 2020
"If Biden wins, no one from the Obama administration should be allowed to touch the immigration policy portfolio," said Pablo Manríquez, a former Democratic National Committee spokesman who's been overtly critical of Obama on immigration, to The Hill.
"Cecilia Muñoz is the one person besides [Trump White House aide] Stephen Miller who has spent years of her public service dedicated to the smooth execution of mass deportation policy at the West Wing level," said Manríquez.
On the other hand, other civil rights organizations have come out in defense of Muñoz, claiming that attacking him is "counterproductive.
In an open letter signed by 18 organizations from around the country, the leaders said, "We firmly believe that Cecilia has the understanding of the moral and policy implications of the current situation that is needed to repair the fabric of trust and hope in Latino and immigrant communities."
One of the signatory organizations, the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), led by Angelica Salas, further defended Muñoz:
"While it is unfortunate she has to be one of the spokespersons for the failed Obama administration's immigration policy; we are not going to lump everyone together and lose the few allies we have in the White House."
The Biden camp also touted Muñoz's experience "establishing strong infrastructure for federal agencies dealing with domestic and economic policy."
"The transition team's focus is ensuring there is a strong policy apparatus across government that can support the Biden-Harris Administration's policies on day one," said a Biden Transition team spokesperson.
At such a critical time for the country — and for communities of color in particular — political decisions redouble their weight in the eyes of the public.
The transition process appears to be seeking to bring together all ideological extremes and close ranks in the face of possible re-election of Donald Trump.
After November, the search will surely be to close the old cycles and open the horizon to a real generation of change.