A Friday afternoon telephone conference was held by Cecelia Munoz and Stephanie Valencia, members of Obama’s staff, urging participants to reach out to community organizers and encouraging them to call their lawmakers acknowledging their support for the DREAM Act (AKA amnesty).
The 20-minute call was an off-the-record conversation that was billed as a “no media or blogger” conference call.
The topic of discussion was the DREAM Act. The Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors that would provide a road to citizenship for young illegal aliens if their parents brought them into the country before age 16 and they attend college for at least two years, join the U.S. military or be under the age of 35.
During this six-year conditional period, immigrants would not be eligible for federal higher education grants, but they would be able to apply for scholarships, student loans and work study grants.
Since Obama is a cosponsor of the original DREAM Act it’s natural for the president to be pleased with Senate leader Harry Reid’s intensions to place the amnesty amendment in a defense spending bill.
It was clear at the beginning of the conference call that this session was not meant to lobby for anything in particular by the senior-level staffers, but it was apparent they felt strongly that including the DREAM Act in a defense bill was the right thing to do.
Munoz and Valencia informed listeners that the White House and cabinet leaders would be on the phones all weekend securing the necessary 60 votes to get the amendment out of committee and into the legislation for debate.
The fact that the White House was proactively mobilizing its community organization network made it clear the Democrats do not have the votes they need to get the amendment out of committee. Political insiders agree and say this is nothing more than a political ploy to show Latino voters that the GOP is not on their side and they better vote for Democrats come November.
However, the fact that Democrats have large majorities in both houses and have failed to get any form of immigration reform legislation introduced, let alone passed, signals the party is divided on this issue.
Over the weekend the White House was working the phone lines and preparing for a GOP filibuster, the White House staffers said.
In the end, Munoz and Valencia agreed that the administration had given “very clear marching orders” to get this amendment added to the Department of Defense war appropriations bill, mobilize community organizers much like they did to get President Obama elected and get the DREAM Act signed into law.
Is the conference call legal?
While the White House conference call directive made it clear they were not lobbying for the DREAM Act, the intent was clear- community organizers start mobilizing.
There is a law that prevents White House employees from lobbying particular topics and immigration is clearly a hot-button issue.
Knowing that those in Washington hold a reasonable amount power, legislators drew up the Hatch Act. It was passed into law in 1939 and regulates political activities of federal employees and some state and local government workers.
The legislation originally prohibited nearly all partisan activity by federal employees, banning them from endorsing candidates, distributing campaign literature, organizing political activities and holding posts in partisan organizations.
However, today, most career government employees can run for nonpartisan offices, make financial contributions to political organizations, get involved in political groups, and campaign for candidates by making speeches, distributing literature and signing nominating positions.
The remaining restrictions on federal employees’ activities in the political arena are tailored much more narrowly to their jobs; they still are banned from using their authority to exert influence over an election; encourage or discourage political activity by anyone with business before their agency; do political work while on duty, in uniform, in the office or in a government vehicle or run for partisan office.
Political appointees operate under the same rules with some exceptions. They are allowed to engage in and may express opinions about candidates, issues, may attend and be active at political rallies.
Currently White House staffer Valencia, who led the conference call, handles outreach to the Latino community, immigration, and housing groups inside the White House. She also served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team and was Deputy Latino Vote Director during Obama’s presidential campaign. The nature of her job lends itself to indirect lobbying, but she is walking a very fine line by expressing action needs to be taken according to the Hatch Act. The same is true for Munoz.
Munoz reached the White House staff via President Obama, she is a known left-leaning Latino activist who was appointed to head the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. She is a former vice president for National Council of La Raza and is charged with outreach to state and local governments as well as constituency groups.
In addition to her La Raza post, Munoz was also the board chair of Center for Community Change, served on the U.S. Programs Board of the Open Society Institute and the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Philanthropies.
National Council of La Raza is a liberal Hispanic organization that advocates for Latinos who reside in America illegally and pushes for open border legislation as a way to gain a foothold in the U.S. political landscape. The group has been supported by both the Republicans and Democrats who are looking to gain control of America’s fastest growing voter block.
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