Was Cesar Chavez Really Against Illegal Immigration?

Dear Mexican,

Whenever I have an immigration debate with my Chicano hermanos who support open borders and get angry at any type of immigration control, they don't seem to understand the basic laws of economics, such as the fact that migrant workers who pick fruit, work in construction and do other blue-collar jobs can never demand wage increases as long as a steady flow of their friends keeps coming up from the homeland. Will somebody please remind them that Cesar Chavez was against illegal immigration because it ruined his union's chances of controlling the labor market, unionizing and demanding better pay?

El Confused-o Gringo-o


C�sar Ch�vez

Dear Gabacho,

I will! Yes, Virginia: Not only was Cesar Chavez against illegal immigration, not only did he speak out against the Mexican invasion before Congress, not only did United Farm Workers members monitor the United States-Mexico border à la the Minutemen, but Chavez even sicced la migra on the undocumented from time to time. The curious case of Chavez and his evolving views on illegal immigration is best explained in University of California, San Diego professor David G. Gutierrez's 1995 book, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. There, the good profe documents how the position of the union leader regarding illegal immigration changed under pressure from Chicano yaktivists. Know Nothings love to repeat Chavez's initial hatred of open borders, so much so that a page on the UFW's Web site now claims Chavez was against scabs, not illegal immigration, despite reams of evidence to the contrary. But pointing out Chavez's original opposition to illegal immigration as validation of one's anti-immigrant views while disregarding his Aztlanista tendencies is like homophobes basing their bigotry on the Old Testament while not bothering to follow the Nazarene's insistence on loving thy neighbor. Confused-o Gringo-o: find a better icon to cherry pick for your rhetorical needs — unless you believe in the supremacy of la raza above everyone else, that is.

Dear Mexican,

Why are words in Spanish in your column in italics? I feel that including Spanish and Spanglish slang in articles should be read in a natural, conversational way and not be treated specially. When I read these italicized words, I feel I should make quote signs with my fingers and read them in a more American accent. Maybe that's just the way I read them, but wouldn't it be more worthy to integrate those words into the American language? Either way, it's something that bugs me in general, not really aimed at your article.

Putting the "Fun" in "Fundamentalist Grammar"

Dear Wab,

Although the Mexican treats American immigration law the same way his countrymen regard the U.S. soccer team, he must grovel to the caudillos that are his copy editors, all of whom would deport me if I didn't italicize Spanish words. It's an arcane rule devised long ago by gabachos who figured gabacho readers were too pendejos to know when a word was foreign. I agree that America should integrate more Spanish words than those found on menus and place names — that's why I use so many of them. Although some Chicano authors don't italicize Spanish or Spanglish words as a political statement against God-knows-what, I like slanting palabras — it's a constant reminder for gabachos to get with the programa.


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