President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that “none of us can claim to know exactly what [labor organizer] Cesar [Chavez] would have said about this [2014 immigration] fight, or any other.”
Chavez is a hero to progressives, but he actually waged a campaign against low-wage immigration.
Obama’s attempt to whitewash Chavez’s stance came during a short speech that he gave in the White House to the producers, actors and supporting crew of a new movie about Chavez.
The movie, which was directed by a Mexican, converts the union leader into a “civil rights” supporter of Mexican immigrants.
“I do think he would want us to remember that the [immigration] debates we have are less about policy than they are about people,” Obama claimed at the preview.
Chavez was born in Arizona, and viewed himself as an American. His greatest wins were in the 1970s, when he managed to triple farmworkers’ wages and boost mechanization by reducing the legal inflow of strikebreaking Mexican “Bracero” laborers.
Chavez called the illegals “wetbacks” and “strike breakers” because they bypassed his picket lines. “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 least one of his deputies called the border-crossers “scabs.”
He died in 1993, and his wins were diluted in the 1980s and 1990s, when the unions began welcoming Democratic-leaning illegal aliens, and the federal government largely stopped enforcing laws against the employment of illegal immigrant farmworkers. Since then, farmworkers’ salaries have dropped below the level won by Chavez, along with the salaries of many other Americans who are forced to compete with low-wage legal and illegal immigrants.
Obama, the progressive movement, and most Hispanic lobby groups are now backing the Senate’s June 2013 bill that would triple legal immigration to 30 million, and double the inflow of guest workers to 10 million during the next 10 years.
The Senate bill would allow farms to employ 300,000 foreign farm workers, at wages set by government, and reduce farmers’ incentive to invest in high-tech farm machinery.
A draft House bill would allow food companies to employ 750,000 foreign workers at government-set wages.
Opposition to the bill has been growing in a GOP populist wing, led by Sen. Jeff Sessions.
But passage of the immigration increase would be a big win for the Democratic machine, because most immigrants and poor farmworkers end up voting Democratic. So would many of the Americans whose wages and jobs prospect would be damaged by the inflow of low-wage competition.
In the mid-1970s, Chavez shifted his tone, accepting the pressure from Latino activists for an amnesty of 1 million Latino illegals. The pressure led to the 1986 amnesty, which actually ended up granting residency to more than 3 million illegals.
Current estimates say there is at least 11.7 million illegals living in the country.
Advocates for greater immigration say Chaves would support an amnesty, but Chavez always wanted to limited the continued inflow of immigrants and guest workers, which he said flooded the labor market and drove down salaries for workers.
That classic supply-and-demand argument was recently echoed by Jason Furman, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. The best way to reduce poverty, he said, is to ensure a labor shortage so that companies have to bid up salaries.
In the White House’s midday press conference on Wednesday, TheDC reminded spokesman Jay Carney about that history. “Is the president aware that César Chávez opposed guest workers, which the president’s bill would double?” The DC asked. “César Chávez said reducing guest workers drove up wages.”
“I appreciate the history lesson,” White House spokesman Carney replied insincerely, before repeating his regular call for House Republicans to increase the inflow of immigrants. (VIDEO: Employers tell Rep. Ellmers they want immigrants, not her constituents)
In his speech at the movie showing, Obama avoided telling Chevez’s history.
The immigration debate is “about the lives of men and women, the young and not so young, who want nothing more than the chance to work hard, support their families, provide a future for their kids and their grandkids, earn their place in our American story… They’re about our highest hopes and aspirations for this country that we love — and the country that we leave for future generations,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep fighting to make sure that our economy rewards the hard work of every American with a fair and living wage and equal pay for equal work. We’ve got to keep working to fix our broken immigration system. This is an example of where this is hard, but we’ve made progress and we are going to get this done. This is going to happen. It’s not a matter of if, just a matter of when. And I want it to happen now, so we are going to keep on pushing,” he continued.