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Mar 31, 2006 1:03 am


Cesar Chavez and the INS



Walking across the campus at San Jose State University, I couldn't but notice a large banner proclaiming the words of Cesar Chavez that"The end of all education should surely be service to others." Tomorrow is Cesar Chavez Day, a public holiday in California and seven other states. This particular observation about education would surely cause Ayn Rand to turn in her grave. And I hope all our readers, and not just those of an individualist persuasion, would take exception to what strikes me as an unusually silly statement.

Until I did some research this afternoon, my knowledge of Cesar Estrada Chavez (1927-1993) was very limited. I knew he had sought to unionize farm workers back in the 1960s and 1970s and was now celebrated in the pantheon of multicultural heroes of contemporary America, and that was about it. However, according to an entry in Wikipedia, Chavez collaborated with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to reduce the flow of workers that were undermining his efforts to unionize the workforce. If true, it is ironic that his name is now invoked by those who assist undocumented immigrants in fighting the INS and who seek to relax or abolish immigration controls from Mexico. According to Wikipedia,

"In 1969, Chávez and members of the UFW marched through the Imperial and Coachella Valley to the border of Mexico to protest growers' use of illegal aliens as temporary replacement workers during a strike. Joining him on the march were both a Reverend Ralph Abernathy and a U.S. Senator Walter Mondale. Chávez and the UFW would often report suspected illegal aliens who served as temporary replacement workers as well as who refused to unionize to the INS."

This article generated quite vigorous discussion. One person objected to the last sentence in the paragraph above. In response someone else quoted Steve Sailor in support of the allegation and cited Sailor's article"La Causa or La Raza." Sailor is well known for his opposition to further immigration, which isn’t to say he’s got his facts wrong. Sailor informs us that,

"[Chavez] frequently complained that the Immigration & Naturalization Service wasn't tough enough. When Chavez would lead a strike, the grower would send trucks across the Mexican border, load them up with scabs, and race back to the Central Valley in the dead of night. Chavez even offered his UFW staffers to the INS to serve as volunteer border guards to keep Mexicans from sneaking into California."

Sailor then quotes Ruben Navarrette Jr. in the Arizona Republic (August 31, 1997):

"Cesar Chavez, a labor leader intent on protecting union membership, was as effective a surrogate for the INS as ever existed. Indeed, Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union he headed routinely reported, to the INS, for deportation, suspected illegal immigrants who served as strikebreakers or refused to unionize."

Can any readers throw more light on the allegation that Cesar Chavez formed a pragmatic alliance with the INS or, for that matter, on any other aspect of his activities?

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