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Munoz, Public Face of Secure Communities Program, Elevated to Policy Position in White House

Today, the White House announced that Cecilia Munoz, currently the director of intergovernmental affairs, will become the director of the Domestic Policy Council, replacing Melody Barnes, who departed at the end of December. The Wall Street Journal article linked above positions Munoz as an “advocate for Hispanics,” and intimates that this is a calculated move.

The White House named Cecilia Munoz as director of the Domestic Policy Council, elevating the president’s point person on immigration and outreach to the Hispanic community.

The move comes at the start of an election year in which President Barack Obama is counting on strong support from Hispanic voters, though officials pointed to Ms. Munoz’s work on a range of concerns to explain her selection.

I have no idea if this is designed to attract Hispanics. But if it is, Cecilia Munoz is a uniquely terrible choice. Because she’s caught up in the controversy over the Secure Communities program, which has near-universal condemnation in the Hispanic community. In fact, Munoz has been the Administration’s main mouthpiece on Secure Communities, which has been criticized for leading innocent immigrants into the deportation system, at odds with White House claims that they will only deport undocumented immigrants convicted of a crime.

Munoz, a former vice president for the National Council of La Raza, has been described as defending the indefensible by leading Hispanic activists, and the immigrant rights group basically accused her of lying about the program. In the Frontline documentary “Lost in Detention,” Munoz stood out in front, defending the Administration’s policy of information-sharing between local law enforcement and immigrations officials.

Once illegal immigrants are detained they are sent to detention centers, often far from their homes. In an interview with Hari Sreenivasan, FRONTLINE correspondent Maria Hinojosa said that their investigation uncovered many cases of sexual and physical assault by guards against detainees. Hinojosa said that the bigger issue is that detainees have little, if any, legal rights or recourse to confront abuse.

Some prominent immigrant rights activists have called on Munoz to resign. This is who the White House elevates to attract the Hispanic vote? Do they actually believe that anyone with a Hispanic-sounding last name must therefore be an asset?

To give you an idea of the horror show that Hispanics see in Secure Communities, consider this recent case, which is all too typical:

An undocumented immigrant who came forward to help police solve a high-profile murder is being rewarded for his bravery by being deported.

Police informant Charbel Chehoud finds himself behind bars and may be sent back to Lebanon as early as tomorrow:

Currently being held at the Essex County Jail, Chaoud says federal immigration authorities ignored recommendations by New Jersey police and prosecutors that he be allowed to stay in the United States.

Chaoud, who fears for his life if forced to return to Lebanon, has resisted five previous attempts at deportation. In July 2011 his brother was killed in a suspicious auto-pedestrian accident in Beirut. […]

According to a recent article in the NY Daily News, the murder of Michael Augulis in 1999 would have gone unsolved if it weren’t for Chehoud’s aid to law enforcement officials. Originally called an accidental drowning in Sandy Hook Bay, Chehoud told police that two men in a fishing boat had thrown Augulis overboard, knowing he couldn’t swim. New Jersey State Police later arrested the two men, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Chaoud is Lebanese, but this policy has most impacted the Hispanic community. I have seen with my own eyes the anger and frustration with the Secure Communities program. And Munoz is the public face of it to the Hispanic community.

Worst. Political tactic. Ever.

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David Dayen

David Dayen