The Corner

Yes, We Can—Make Cesar Chavez’s Birthday National Border Control Day

My piece on the home page calls for every March 31 to be observed as National Border Control Day, in honor of Cesar Chavez’s commitment to tight borders (it’s his birthday). In it I mentioned the new biopic about him. The movie itself wasn’t bad, in a basketball-team-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-wins-the-big-game kind of way. (Many of the reviews were less generous.)

But the film’s two references to border control were transparently dishonest. In the first, Dolores Huerta (played by Rosario Dawson) says the growers were trying to break up their strike by busing illegals up from Mexico. It was almost an incidental reference, with no acknowledgement or reaction from the other characters, and no mention of the fact that keeping out illegal workers and identifying those already here was a central part of Chavez’s strategy.

The other reference was even more deceitful. Chavez is fasting to atone for violent attacks by some of the strikers, and insists on all United Farm Workers members signing a pledge of non-violence. As one man signs, he says that his cousin just came over the border and wants to sign too — and Chavez’s brother, who’s manning the table, nods approvingly. This level of fakery makes Oliver Stone look like an amateur.

Miriam Pawel, in her new, most-honest portrait of the labor leader, points out that Chavez would repeatedly say, “If we can get the illegals out of California, we will win the strike overnight.” Chavez was probably more right than he knew — without illegal immigration, the strike may never have been necessary in the first place because the farmers would have had to offer better pay to get Americans and legal immigrants to work for them. And all the wage gains the UFW achieved were wiped out by the subsequent mass illegal immigration — which today’s Hispanic activists support.

Over the weekend, a New York Times puff piece on California farmers’ frustration with congressional unwillingness to give them what they want noted what happens when there are fewer illegals available:

In recent years, farm owners have grown increasingly fearful of labor shortages. Last year, the diminished supply of workers led average farm wages in the region to increase by roughly $1 an hour, according to researchers at U.C. Davis who have tracked wages for years. Now, farm owners are pressing to make it easier for would-be immigrants to obtain agricultural visas, which they say would create a more reliable labor supply.

Oh, no! The free market is raising the wages of poor people! This cannot stand!


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