KANSAS CITY, Missouri – A national Hispanic civil rights organization said Saturday it will not hold its 2009 annual convention in Kansas City because an opponent of illegal immigration was appointed to the city's park board.
The National Council of La Raza said its board of directors voted unanimously to pull the conference after being unable to reach an agreement with Mayor Mark Funkhouser over his appointment in June of Frances Semler, a member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps.
NCLR officials consider the Minutemen, who are known for posting patrols along the U-S.-Mexican border and picketing construction sites where illegal immigrants may be working, hostile to Hispanics. The Minutemen organization maintains it simply wants U.S. immigration policies enforced.
"An active member of the Minutemen should not be an official representative for a city that purports to believe in diversity," said NCLR board chairwoman Monica Lozano.
Funkhouser, who has stood by Semler throughout the controversy, declined to comment Saturday on the group's decision, saying he was abiding by an agreement he reached with local Hispanic leaders during a federally mediated session Friday.
The NCLR and local groups had urged Funkhouser to force Semler to step down from the park board. Last week, NCLR said it would still hold the conference in Kansas City if Semler agreed to at least cut her ties to the Minutemen.
But Funkhouser and Semler refused both demands. Semler and the Minutemen have said her political views have nothing to do with her service on the park board.
Losing the 2009 convention is expected to cost the local economy an estimated up to $7 million in revenue.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which plans its own convention from Kansas City in 2010, has also criticized Semler's appointment and said it would consider NCLR's decision in its own deliberations.