Policy Analysis Center Growth
The Reagan-era budget cuts severely constrained NCLR’s ability to provide support to its Affiliate constituency in the form of funds or training. As a result, the organization began to concentrate more intensely on forging a national policy agenda in Washington, DC. A legislative focus was not entirely new for the organization; since its founding, NCLR had served as an advocate for Hispanics and helped to shape policy issues in the areas of employment training, civil rights, and education.
In the late 1970s, the Board and staff of NCLR began to realize that the policy arguments they were making on behalf of the Latino community were weakened by a lack of “hard facts” to support them. Information about Hispanics – especially regarding their socioeconomic status, their views on public policy issues, and the level of services they received from publicly-funded agencies and organizations – was inconsistently collected and rarely reported. Convinced that fact-based policy analyses presenting an Hispanic perspective would provide a major boost to NCLR’s advocacy efforts, the organization strengthened its commitment to a public policy agenda by establishing a Policy Analysis Center in 1980.
During NCLR’s period of financial challenge in the 1980s, the efforts of this Policy Analysis Center became so popular that several funders and Board members suggested that NCLR consider dropping its capacity-building mission entirely and focusing all its efforts on public policy. Yzaguirre, however, strongly opposed this move, arguing successfully that NCLR’s national policy efforts and its field-based capacity were complementary, and were thus equally critical to the organization’s ability to accomplish its mission. NCLR could only consider its national policy goals credible if they were built upon knowledge and experience gained through relationships with community-based organizations, and it could only hope to achieve large scale changes in the Latino community by influencing policy at the national level. As a result, NCLR worked to rebuild the Affiliate Network and its own field offices.