Press Statement

NCLR Mourns Loss of Rep. Robert Garcia

January 27, 2017

Camila Gallardo
(305) 215-4259

WASHINGTON, DC—Below are NCLR (National Council of La Raza) President and CEO Janet Murguía’s words of remembrance for Rep. Robert Garcia:

“It is with profound sadness that we learned of the passing of former Rep. Bob Garcia of New York. NCLR worked closely with Rep. Garcia during his tenure in Congress on education, civil rights and immigration, among other issues. Congressman Garcia leaves behind a rich legacy, including his willingness to work with both sides of the aisle, as well as his pioneering work in helping to unite the Latino community with his tireless efforts in getting fellow Puerto Rican elected officials deeply involved in the immigration issue.

“In so many ways, the Latino community is living out Congressman Garcia’s legacy every single day. We see it in the impassioned advocacy of Reps. Luis Gutiérrez, José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez, three Puerto Rican members of Congress who have become great champions of immigrants throughout the country. We see it in the Latino organizations that have embraced solutions from all over the political spectrum to help our community’s challenges, which began when Rep. Garcia teamed with Rep. Jack Kemp, a conservative Republican from upstate New York, to create ‘enterprise zones’ in cities to help alleviate poverty and create opportunity (now called ‘empowerment zones’). And we see it in the way that Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and people from the Caribbean and Central and South America have come together as the Latino community, a unity Garcia championed long before many others when he helped build the Congressional Hispanic Caucus into an institution as its second chair.

“But there are parts of Garcia’s legacy we wish were more prominent in today’s America. The hallmark of his career and work was always an immense decency, generosity, compassion, empathy, and an unwavering commitment to opportunity, equality and justice. His district had few immigrants but he and the late Rep. Ed Roybal led the fight for the Hispanic community during the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), literally camping out at the conference committee in 1986—which had no Latino members on it—to ensure the survival of key amendments that helped immigrants. Thanks to their leadership, IRCA helped legalize nearly three million undocumented immigrants. Although he was a proud liberal Democrat, he often worked with conservative Democrats and Republicans. He was equally adept at crossing racial lines: many may not realize that he spearheaded the congressional push to make Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, a crusade on which he never gave up even though it took nearly a decade.

“He was at his core open-minded, open-hearted and could make friends with anyone, from his constituents in the South Bronx who saw him as their only hope, to the rural, conservative Republican members of the Congressional Prayer Group he joined later in life. On a personal note, I will always remember and be grateful for his generous offers to provide advice and counsel when I started at NCLR, something he did with countless others in the next generation of Hispanic leaders. Our deepest condolences go out his wife Jane, his family, and the many who will miss him dearly.”

NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to build a stronger America by creating opportunities for Latinos. For more information on NCLR, please visit or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.