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The Libre Initiative's Daniel Garza On Immigration, Funding And 'Hidden Agendas'

Krystina Martinez
Daniel Garza is the executive director of the Libre Initiative. He's also served as a city councilmember, police officer and for a time, worked in the Bush administration.

As Donald Trump and his Republican opponents for president ramp up their rhetoric about immigrants, there’s another conservative effort making inroads among Latinos in Southern states.

It’s called the Libre Initiative, and it has several unusual characteristics among Hispanic groups. Its message is focused on prosperity, and it’s also received millions of dollars from the Koch brothers.

Daniel Garza is executive director of the Libre Initiative, which is based in Mission, Texas.

Interview Highlights: Daniel Garza…

…On his background:

“My parents came to America because they thought of it as ‘the promised land’ and they came as farm workers. I was born in California during the grape season and we would migrate from California to Nebraska to the state of Washington where we finally set it as a home base.

I saw a lot of Border Patrol raids. Whenever we ‘d see the vans come in with the agent, my dad would just tell my brother and I to get down from the ladder, just wait it out and when we'd be approached by the Border agent they'd ask, ‘are you citizens?’ ‘Yes sir’ and then they'd move on to tackle somebody else.

It was something to behold. It changed you in a way, seeing that as a kid.”

…On immigration policies proposed by Republican presidential candidates:

“When you're proposing policy that divides, when you're proposing policy that shuts off equal opportunity like removing birthright citizenship would do, that would make it almost impossible to someone to fully assimilate into American society… that is not good for America.

That's not good for society and it hasn't been for other countries so I worry about those kind of policy proposals that would divide, that was split people, that would keep people or maybe even put them deeper into the shadows.

I would resist that and in fact, work against it and advocate against it and we will. We feel the birthright citizenship is the cornerstone of American principles.”

…On receiving money from the Koch brothers:

“A lot of folks say, ‘well, you guys are Koch front.’ If you really look at us, we’re more of a Latino front.

Now, let's do away with the pretenses here. The left, especially Latino left organizations, also receive funding from private donors and contributors and according to law, do not have to disclose who those donors are. For them to hypocritically point at us and say, ‘you guys take money from Charles and David Koch,’ I think lacks of self-awareness. I don't make any apologies for being associated to Charles and David Koch. I respect them.”

…On balancing advocating for policies and retaining non-profit status:

“I can tell you I don't take my cues from the Republican Party, I don't ask for the Republican Party's permission to advance what we advance, much less the Democrat Party.

We endorse ideas, not party or candidates and will continue to do so. We're in full compliance with the law in advocating for policies that we feel are going to make society better and the individual freer. 

I understand some folks have said that we have a hidden agenda which is, ‘to spread their conservative principles and to limit government.’ It's not hidden.

We're telling you that's what we're doing. We don't make any secret about it. That's what we're looking for and I think we're getting a massive response from the Latino community on that.”

Daniel Garza is the executive director of the Libre Initiative, which is based in Mission, Texas. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.