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Cecilia Munoz, Director, Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz, Director, Domestic Policy Council

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2013 White House / The White House

Cecilia Munoz, Director, Domestic Policy Council

(Richard A. Bloom)

photo of Jill Lawrence
July 17, 2013

One reason Munoz traded her career as a Hispanic civil-rights advocate for a job at the Obama White House was the prospect of achieving a goal she had worked toward for decades: reform of the nation's antiquated immigration laws. It wasn't a priority and didn't happen during Obama's first term. But now it's on the front burner and, as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Munoz is a key player as immigration reform moves through Congress. Munoz, 50, born in Michigan to Bolivian immigrants, earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a master's degree from the University of California (Berkeley). She spent 20 years at the National Council of La Raza, the Hispanic advocacy organization, picking up a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant along the way, before joining the administration in 2009 as director of intergovernmental affairs. Munoz became Obama's top domestic adviser in January 2012, and is now quarterbacking initiatives from pre-K expansion to immigration to implementing the Affordable Care Act. "I never thought that she would be on the inside. I always thought she'd be on the outside pressing for change," says Frank Sharry, an immigration activist who has been on the front lines with Munoz for 25 years. Obama's record first-term deportations of illegal immigrants required Munoz to defend a practice she likely would have protested as an advocate. But this year she is in a position to help make reform part of Obama's legacy and her own. "Our moment has come," Munoz said in January. "We have to drive it home and make sure we get to an outcome."

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