Monday, October 08, 2012

Barack Obama dedicates National Historic Site to César Chávez

The historic visit today of Barack Obama to La Paz and the dedication of the Cesar Chavez monument as a national historic site is important.  It is covered in many news stories, including here:  
Unfortunately the writer Amanda Paulson  is poorly informed on the role of Chavez and the UFW on immigration.  She repeats the right wing view that Chavez was anti immigrant.  Nothing could be further from the truth.
Both CNN and USA Today cover the dedication today.
Among the more contested issues raised by Paulson  and by Barnacke  in Trampling Out the Vintage, is the  view of the UFW’s relationships with undocumented workers in  1975  period, the so called “Wet Line.   This is the same argument being  made today by various  anti immigrant militia groups , Tea Party advocates and  posted on Wikipedia . I tried for a couple of weeks to correct the Wikipedia source but others regularly changed it back.   The post cites sources, but the sources only acknowledge a conflict, they do not support the assertion of anti immigrant behavior.
I prefer Bert Corona’s.   Bert was a leading voice on immigration  issues and organized undocumented workers in the  organization Hemandad Mexicana.  He was also a friend of mine, and we worked together on immigration issues.  Although critical of the UFW policy, Bert  never took the highly destructive view that the militia advocates promote today.  There were disputes over issues, and errors were  made but remember the context, which Bert for one did.   The UFW was losing the strike  as strikers  were replaced by  with undocumented workers crossing a border and a picket line to work in struck fields. These undocumented workers, who knew little or nothing about the UFW or the long, violent, bitter and costly strike  they were breaking, were nonetheless  breaking a strike on  a  movement for justice and equality.

            Chavez was not anti immigrant.  Indeed, from its founding the UFW was an organization that worked to improve the lives of immigrants, providing education, immigration counseling, and organizing.   Helping workers to get legal status was a major part of the work.  The case cited was not about immigrants, it was about strike breakers.
Ultimately in 1975  the  UFW convention took  a formal position to organize the undocumented and to allow them to vote in elections as a part of the California Agricultural Relations Act. That is  the official UFW position on the undocumented.   

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