President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrated the legacy of labor activist Cesar Chavez, a fierce critic of undocumented workers.
Democrats celebrated Cesar Chavez as a “tireless” activist who helped improve the lives of working families across the country on Wednesday, a day which former President Barack Obama declared Cesar Chavez Day in 2014. Chavez crusaded against illegal immigration, accusing undocumented workers of stealing American jobs and driving wages down.
“Chavez instilled in our nation the principle that, in his own words, ‘our ambition must be broad enough to include the aspirations and the needs of others for their sakes and for our own,’” President Joe Biden said in a video message posted Wednesday by the United Farm Workers (UFW), the union Chavez co-founded in 1962.
“As we rebuild the economy around rewarding hard work and lifting up the dignity of working people, we have no finer role model than Cesar Chavez,” Biden continued. “He was a champion for the people who built and sustained our nation.”
— United Farm Workers (@UFWupdates) March 31, 2021
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that Chavez was an “unyielding voice for hard-working Americans.”
However, Chavez fiercely opposed illegal immigration and believed that undocumented workers took opportunities away from working-class Americans, according to ABC News. He accused undocumented workers of breaking strikes and forcing wages down for entire workforces.
Chavez even reported several suspected illegal immigrants to U.S. immigration authorities, University of California San Diego Professor David Gutiérrez told ABC News.
In 1974, Chavez started the “Illegals Campaign,” which called upon UFW members to report illegal immigrants to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the San Antonio Current reported. INS was transformed into Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection in 2003.
“As long as we have a poor country bordering California, it’s going to be very difficult to win strikes,” Chavez said during a 1972 interview, HuffPost reported.
The labor leader often referred to illegal immigrants as “wetbacks,” a derogatory term, HuffPost reported.
“If we can get the illegals out of California, we will win the strike overnight,” Chavez also once stated, according to his biographer Miriam Pawel.
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