Thursday's articles on the "legacy of Cesar Chavez" ignore an important part of his legacy, namely his active opposition to illegal immigration.
Chavez often organized pickets of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to demand stricter enforcement of immigration laws. Columnist Ruben Navarette, Jr., called him "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."
Philip Martin, the author of "Promise Unfulfilled: Unions, Immigration, and Farm Workers" notes that the UFW "posted 'wet patrols' on the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent unauthorized Mexicans from replacing strikers. The UFW was only partially successful: Chavez complained that 'employers go to Mexico and have unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers to break the strike.'"
Chavez was entirely correct – illegal immigration undermines unions and lowers wages. My recent book, "The Impact of Immigration on African Americans," summarizes the evidence that confirms this common-sense proposition.
In our enthusiasm for multicultural homilies, let us not distort the historical record. The legacy of Cesar Chavez is primarily about the labor movement, not ethnic identity. If we are to emulate Cesar Chavez, as our local purveyors of identity politics encourage us to do, then we should oppose amnesties for illegal immigrants and demand stricter enforcement of immigration laws in order to protect American workers.
Professor of Economics