Kansas City, MO – This weekend, the board of the National Council of La Raza, a leading Hispanic civil rights organization, decided to move its scheduled 2009 conference away from Kansas City. The cancellation will cost La Raza 70,000 dollars in fees, and it will cost Kansas City some 5 to 7 million dollars in tourism revenue.
The decision ended four months of conversations between Mayor Mark Funkhouser and local civil rights leaders, who protested his appointment of a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps to the board of Parks and Recreation. Frances Semler is a 73-year-old North Kansas City woman, who, in addition to being president of a rose club, advocates against illegal immigration and Kansas City's role as a hub for international trade. But it's her membership in the Minutemen that Latino leaders say makes her an unacceptable choice for a public official. Besides advocacy, some Minutemen patrol US borders to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into the country, and in non-border states like Missouri and Kansas, they picket job sites where they believe undocumented people are working.
National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia is from Kansas City Kansas originally. The group has five affiliates in Kansas City Missouri, and Murguia told KCUR's Sylvia Maria Gross that the national board voted unanimously to follow their lead.