If it wasn’t enough to put Latinx folks in danger with violent and divisive immigration policies, now U.S. politicians are taking the stories of Latinx activists to use them for their own personal agendas.
Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert is trying to change César Chávez Day (March 31) to “National Border Control Day.” He believes “it seems only appropriate” to deem his birthday as “National Border Control Day” due to his stance on immigration.
“Cesar Chavez was best known for his passionate fight to gain better working environments for thousands of workers laboring in harsh conditions on farms for low wages,” he said in a statement. “He also staunchly believed in the sovereignty of the United States border. In fact, it was his firm belief that preventing illegal immigration was an essential prerequisite to improving the circumstances of American farmworkers; and in 1979, in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., he demanded that the federal government enforce the immigration laws and keep illegal aliens out of the country.”
It’s also important to note that Chávez’s personal beliefs about immigration are way more complicated than Gohmert makes them seem. In the ’60s and ’70s, he was worried that undocumented workers could make it more difficult for American workers to get raises. He even reportedly used derogatory terms like “wetback” and “illegals” and encouraged other United Farm Worker members to report undocumented immigrants. However, as time went on, he sought to promote and protect undocumented immigrants working on farms. In 1986, he backed a bill signed by Ronald Regan that legalized the status of nearly 3 million people.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham called Gohmert’s proposal shameful.
“For Rep. Gohmert to twist and warm the legacy of César Chávez is offensive, shameful and beyond the pale of normal logic,” said Lujan Grisham. “Congressman Gohmert has done everything he can to attack the true legacy of César Chávez to weaken unions, undermine labor protections for workers, and derail immigration reform efforts that honor the dignity and contributions of workers and their families.”