A legendary labor leader who once called illegal immigrants “wetbacks” has now taken the default position of many in the comprehensive immigration reform movement: namely, that enforcement of existing immigration laws through deportation should be halted.
At the union-sponsored rally for immigration reform in Bakersfield, California on Wednesday, Breitbart News was granted an exclusive interview with labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez.
Huerta gives two arguments for halting deportations: first, that it separates families; and second, that it makes no sense to deport people when the United States is bringing in new immigrants. Both arguments are faulty. Many forms of punishment, such as putting criminals in prison, also “separate families,” but that’s not sufficient reason to abandon punishment. The second argument ignores the difference between people who ignored existing laws and immigrants who are following the law.
While immigration reform proponents give lip service to the idea of securing the borders, many actually oppose deportations on principle. S”top Deportations” rallies are common because ending enforcement of existing laws is a common goal of pro-immigration reform activists. Recent rallies have happened in the past few months from coast to coast–from New Jersey to in front of the White House to Illinois to Arizona to California.
The activism has been effective with the Obama administration, which has slowed deportations to a degree that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents felt forced to file a suit against the Department of Homeland Security. As USA Today reported:
A group of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents sued their own agency Thursday, arguing that the Obama administration is not letting them fully identify and deport illegal immigrants.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says her department does not have the manpower or money to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants in the USA, so she issued a memorandum last year ordering immigration officials to focus their efforts on dangerous illegal immigrants. In June, Obama announced a program that will allow up to 1.7 million illegal immigrants brought to the USA as children to have deportations deferred for at least two years.
It’s historically ironic that Ms. Huerta was part of the Bakersfield event promoting illegal immigration, since Chavez was not only a vocal opponent of illegal immigration–which he felt hurt farmworkers by lowering–but also actually turned in illegal immigrants to the government.
At one time, Huerta clearly agreed with Chavez on the point. As even the Huffington Post was forced to admit, both Chavez and Huerta used language that would see them crucified in the media today:
Think Mexican posted a link Wednesday to video of a 1972 televised interview with United Farm Workers union co-founder Cesar Chavez to its Facebook and Twitter accounts. In it, Chavez calls undocumented immigrants hired to break a strike, “wetbacks” and “illegals.”
“As long as we have a poor country bordering California, it’s going to be very difficult to win strikes,” Chavez says in the interview.
Discussing a strike against a gas and oil company, he then says: “All of a sudden yesterday morning, they brought in 220 wetbacks — these are the illegals — from Mexico.”
A 1969 article in the Lodi News-Sentinel quotes Dolores Huerta, who helped found the UFW with Chavez, using the term. “There is a detention camp for wetbacks at Coachella from where they’re (wetbacks) (sic) taken out every day to work in the fields,” one article says.
In the interview with Breitbart News, Huerta also said she believes the movement for immigration reform is stronger than ever.