Obama to whitewash immigration opponent Cesar Chavez

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama has set aside 30 minutes Wednesday to showcase a new movie about Cesar Chavez, who is being portrayed by Democrats as an advocate for immigrants, even though he successfully minimized the employment of foreign migrant laborers.

Chavez campaigned against the hiring of Mexican migrant workers. He described them as strikebreakers who would cross a union picket line, and he eventually boosted farmworkers’ salaries in the 1960s and 1970s by minimizing the use of migrant labor.

Chavez died in 1993, just the Democratic Party began to gain votes in California and Texas from millions of illegal immigrants who were amnestied in 1986.

Obama will host the movie showing at 2:25 p.m., and will make a short speech which will be covered by pool reporters. The Daily Caller will not be able to ask him a question.

Obama will likely use the movie to whitewash Chavez’s role as an advocate for American workers, and also to tout his own 2014 push for “comprehensive immigration reform.” The Senate immigration bill supported by Obama would double the inflow of immigrants and guest workers seeking to compete for jobs now held by Americans, including American farm laborers.

“As long as we have a poor country bordering California, it is going to be very difficult to win strikes,” Chavez told a KQED TV interviewer in 1972.

At the time, Chavez was also managing a strike against an oil and gas company. “We’ve closed them down, they’ve been unable to get strikebreakers, or gotten very few, then all of a sudden, yesterday morning, they brought in 220 wetbacks,” he told the interviewer.

“These are the illegals from Mexico,” said Chavez, an Arizona-born American who helped create the National Farm Workers Association, now known as the United Farmworkers Union.

“There’s no way to defend against that strikebreaking,” he continued. “So the only way to win strikes is taking our fight to the citizens, to the people in the cities, and have them help us boycott those products that we’re striking,” he said in largely unaccented English.

The immigration-boosting bill that Obama is pushing is supported by progressives and wealthy people, but is opposed by many middle-class voters.

The year after Chavez’s KQED interview, some members of Chavez’s association set up a “wet line” to physically block illegal immigrants from Mexico.

In the early 1960s, Chavez successfully prodded then-President John Kennedy to curb the “Bracero” guest-worker program, which allowed farms to hire low-cost Mexican immigrants instead of American farmworkers. The program was killed by Congress in 1963.

The loss of foreign workers forced farms and food companies to triple the wages paid to American field workers. The wages rose from $1.77 per hour in 1965, to $5.63 in 1978. That’s equivalent to $20.27 per hour in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since then, farmworkers’ wages has fallen after inflation, amid a huge wage of legal and illegal immigration that is backed by progressive Democrats and the GOP’s business wing.

That’s rise and fall of farmworkers’ wages is a function of supply and demand. In February, Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, said the best way to boost Americans’ salaries in the marketplace is to engineer a “tight labor market” where the economy outgrows the supply of workers.

Until Congress increased immigration in 1965, few Americans outside the fields faced workplace competition from low-wage immigrants.

The increased wages won by Chavez also prompted farmers to develop new labor-saving techniques that sharply increased farmworkers’ productivity and allowed them to minimize the cost of food. The new productivity measures initially included lightweight ladders, but later included a herd of bizarre-looking harvesting machinery. For example. farmers in GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s district are using robots to milk their cows, freeing farmers or migrant workers from the endless task of milking cows 365 days a year.

However, the immigration bill backed by Obama and Ryan would reverse much of Chavez’s accomplishments.

The Senate bill backed by Obama would offer an amnesty to at least 11.7 million illegal immigrants, double the annual inflow of one million immigrants and 650,000 guest workers, and set uniform wage-rates for migrant farm workers. For example, the migrant dairy workers in Ryan’s district would be paid $11.37 an hour, which is roughly equal to half the wages paid in 1978 to California farm workers.

And if farmers can hire cheap labor, they’re less likely to buy machinery, say the salesman now selling robot-milkers in Ryan’s district.

Overall, the Senate bill would provide green cards to 30 million immigrants and work-permits to at least 10 million guest workers, during a decade when 40 million Americans will turn 18 and begin looking for jobs in a slow-growing, increasingly-automated economy.

Obama isn’t likely to highlight Chavez’s preference for Americans over foreigners.

Instead, Obama will likely portray Chavez as an civil rights advocate for immigrants, many of whom are naturalized and eligible to vote in the 2014 midterm elections.

The movie’s director, Diego Luna, described the movie as a way to aid immigrants. “We’re coming out with ‘Cesar Chavez’ at the right moment in the States,” he told Variety in February. “There’s a big debate in the U.S. about immigration reform [and] we need to reflect on who’s feeding this country today, why this community has been ignored,” he said.

“There’s still much injustice and inequality,” complained Luna, who is a Mexican, unlike Chavez.

Variety’s article also portrayed Chavez as a champion for Mexicans and illegal immigrants. The movie’s producers, according to the Hollywood trade publication, are “empowering a new generation of Mexicans and Latin Americans… ‘Cesar Chavez; isn’t just a story for Mexicans, Luna insisted.”

In a Tuesday report about the movie’s premiere in D.C., local news website Politico also emphasized the immigration angle.

“It makes no sense that this country has 11 million workers feeding, building this country, making America what it is and they don’t share the same rights of those who are consuming the fruit of their labor,” Luna said, according to Politico.

“I don’t see why there should even be a debate,” said Luna.

The movie “is going to be open-borders propaganda even though Chavez was opposed to illegal immigration and understood the connection between open borders and low wages,” predicted Mark Kirkorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The CIS advocates for reduced immigration, partly because it will drive up salaries by forcing companies to compete for Americans’ labor.

Chavez’s championship for American workers is widely known by immigration experts, but is rarely acknowledged by progressives.

That’s partly because progressives have shifted their charity and their political pitch from the declining number of American blue-collar workers to the rising number of Latino service voters.

One progressive who has highlighted the political shift is Ruben Navarette, a Californian journalist, columnist and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors. “Chavez earned many titles in his life, but ‘champion of immigrants; was not one of them,” Navarette wrote in October 2012 when Obama opened the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, near Bakersfield, California.

Chavez “was primarily a labor leader who was concerned about illegal immigrants undercutting union members, either by accepting lower wages or crossing picket lines,” Navarette wrote in the 2012 column.

Chavez “never pretended to be anything else,” Navarette said. “When he pulled workers out of the field during a strike, the last thing he wanted was to see a crew of illegal immigrant workers take away his leverage.”

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