Holding Firm to Principles
In all of his efforts, Yzaguirre has sought to operate pragmatically, and in a nonpartisan manner, while never sacrificing his integrity and deeply-held beliefs. He has worked patiently to make incremental improvements in public policy, understanding that compromise is inevitable in politics to achieve success of any kind. Nevertheless, he has stood firm behind his principles, no matter what the consequences. Lionel Castillo, his good friend and President Carter’s Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), fired him as Chair of the Hispanic Advisory Commission to the INS for publicly criticizing the administration’s immigration reform proposals. A few years later, after he criticized the Reagan administration’s stance on domestic policy issues, NCLR lost all of its federal funding – then 80% of its budget – putting its very survival at risk.
Nor did he soften his tone in the 1990s. He criticized President George H. W. Bush’s affirmative action stance even after the president agreed to be the first sitting president to appear at an NCLR Annual Conference. Throughout the Clinton years, Yzaguirre criticized the president for appointing very few Hispanics to key positions and for several of his proposals – including the 1996 welfare reform law – which NCLR considered detrimental to the Hispanic community. Just last year, Yzaguirre blasted the current Bush administration’s record on Hispanic issues, which many believe has cost NCLR millions of dollars in federal funding.
Moreover, Yzaguirre has stood for principle beyond the political arena. Although banks, telecommunications firms, and media companies are among NCLR’s largest funders, at Yzaguirre’s direction NCLR has never supported a bank, telecommunications, or media merger due to the potential adverse impact on the Latino community. NCLR has also been a leader in a number of major corporate responsibility initiatives, including the formation of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, whose mission is to ensure the inclusion of Hispanics in corporate America at a level commensurate with their economic contributions.
His influence – large and small, seen and unseen – has been profound and will be felt for years to come. That millions all over the country are proud to call themselves “Hispanics” and “Latinos” is in no small measure due to the work and career of Raul Yzaguirre. And while this long and fruitful chapter of his life is coming to an end, he is looking forward to exploring new roads. “While I have no intention of retiring [from public life] and I hope to do other things, it is time for me to end my career [at NCLR]. It is my objective to continue to be involved and try to make a difference while at the same time focusing on my health and my family.”