Kansas City, Mo. — A national Hispanic organization said it will hold its annual convention here if a city parks board member agrees to cut her ties to an anti-illegal immigration group.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Council of La Raza, along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have threatened to take their conventions elsewhere unless Frances Semler, a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, resigns from the parks board.
But after a meeting Thursday between Hispanic community groups and Mayor Mark Funkhouser, NCLR said it was willing to compromise if Semler revoked her membership in the group.
A spokesman for Funkhouser, who appointed Semler and has stood by her since the controversy erupted, said Friday the mayor was out of town and wasn't commenting on the new proposal.
Semler didn't immediately return a phone call for comment.
But Janet Murguia, president of NCLR, said she was optimistic Funkhouser would keep an open mind about the proposal.
"I know the mayor wanted another option that could be a possible solution to this, and that was what was proposed," Murguia said.
Murguia added that time is running out for Funkhouser to make a decision on Semler as NCLR is scheduled to vote next weekend on whether to move the 2009 convention, which would cost the local economy an estimated $5 million to $7 million in revenue.
The NAACP has said it would follow the council's decision, moving its own convention from Kansas City in 2010, costing the city another $9 million.
Both groups began calling for Semler's resignation shortly after her appointment in June.
The Minutemen organization is best known for stationing members along the Mexican border, alerting Border Patrol agents to possible illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. Some members have also picketed construction sites where illegal immigrants are believed to be working.
Semler has said she wants immigration laws enforced and would support limiting even legal immigration until officials work through the backlog of people trying to enter the country legally.
Murguia said that while her group disagrees with Semler's views on immigration, the bigger issue has always been her affiliation with the Minutemen, which many Hispanic groups claim harasses and intimidates Hispanics, regardless of their legal status.
"This isn't about a difference in immigration policy but what the Minutemen represent in terms of their tactics and their divisive nature," Murguia said. "If she were to step down from the Minutemen that would go a long way toward addressing our concerns about her being able to act more impartially in her role (on the parks board)."
Chris Simcox, head of the Arizona-based Minuteman organization, said NCLR hasn't provided evidence that his group has been involved in any violent or other illegal actions.
He said he doubted that Semler would step down from the Minutemen and that she doesn't need to.
"It's blatant discrimination based on affiliation with a pro-law enforcement, pro-border security group," he said.