Media Ignore César Chávez’s Opposition to Illegal Immigration, Racial Advocacy

Despite Chávez’s actual views, liberal media, then and now, use his legacy to promote their agenda.

Rather than dismissing his contrary views as sour grapes, the media simply ignore César Chávez’s opinions that stray from liberal orthodoxy.

Chávez was a 1960s and 70s union leader who promoted unionization and Californian farm workers’ strikes. The farm workers of the time were predominantly Latino. He is particularly famous for the Delano grape strike: a five-year strike and boycott against Californian grapes. Liberals seized on this boycott, as well as several high profile hunger strikes, to promote Chávez as a symbol of immigrant and Latino rights.

Even today, prominent media outlets often praise Chávez, just as they lauded his movement during the 1960s. With the new biopic, “César Chávez,” being released on March 28 ahead of his March 31 birth date, immigration activists have once again begun invoking his legacy.

However, Chávez reportedly compared La Raza to Hitler and called for increased enforcement against illegal immigration but liberal media outlets ignore these statements while using his legacy to promote their own agenda on immigration and identity politics.

Throughout the Delano grape strike, print media such as The Washington Post and The New York Times endlessly touted Chávez’s role in the labor movement. On June 17, 1968, the Times praised the “inspirational leadership of Cesar Chavez” in promoting labor unions.

In addition, the Post’s Jack Fox described Chávez on Nov. 14, 1968, as the “apostle of non-violence, liberal, and champion of civil rights for the ‘brown’ people of the United States.”

Today, liberal outlets have seized on that same narrative. For example, the Post described him on March 20, 2014, as a “Latino labor Hero,” and on March 23, 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Ordoña called him an “extraordinary ordinary man.”

Ignoring his actual views, the liberal media have also linked this hero worship to the fight over illegal immigration and amnesty. Tony Castro, writing for The Huffington Post on Dec. 27, 2013, praised an immigration activist’s “22 days on a water-only fast to protest Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform” and said the fast was “Following in that tradition of Chavez’s fasting.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Hector Tobar also linked Chávez to immigrant rights. On March 22, 2014, he described Chávez’s “successful series of marches, fasts and strikes he led on behalf of mostly immigrant farmworkers.”

Modern politicians including President Barack Obama also praised Chávez. On March 19, 2014, the National Review reported that Obama called Chávez “an American hero” before a White House pre-screening of the upcoming film on the labor leader.

Such liberal praise completely ignores Chávez’s criticism of many contemporary liberal positions on Latino rights.

Even The New York Times admitted that the modern immigration movement was not in line with Chávez’s views on illegal immigration. On June 12, 2013 the Times’ Michael Cieply reported that Chávez “held complex and evolving views on the status of unauthorized immigrants, some of which would be at odds with the changes many Latinos and others are seeking today.”

Of course, the Times concealed the extent to which he opposed illegal immigration by simply calling it “complex,” when in fact, Chávez demanded government crackdowns on illegal immigration and actively denounced illegal immigrants.

The Blaze reported that Chávez, while testifying in front of the Senate in 1979, condemned the “unlimited, unrestricted use of illegal alien strikebreakers” and complained that “the Immigration and Naturalization Service has looked the other way and assisted in the strike breaking.”

Chávez demanded deportation of illegal immigrants. Ruben Navarrette, Jr. of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2005 that Chávez had told union members “to report the presence of illegal immigrants in the fields” and “demand that the [INS] deport them.”

These outlets praising Chávez as a racial leader also ignore his stated opposition to Latino advocacy groups. Specifically, he attacked the Latino “La Raza” or “The Race” movement, putting himself at odds with The National Council of La Raza (NCLR). NCLR president Janet Murguía described the organization in 2009 as “the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.”

The National Review’s Mark Krikorian chronicled Chávez’s objections to the “La Raza” movement in 2009. He cited a 1969 New Yorker profile by Peter Matthiessen which quoted Chávez saying “La raza is a very dangerous concept” and “Today it’s anti-gringo [white], tomorrow it will be anti-Negro.”

Matthiessen had written that Chávez’s deputy Leroy Chatfield said that Chávez compared the “La Raza” movement to the Nazis. According to Chatfield, Chávez said “Can’t they understand that that’s just the way Hitler started?” and that “it’s related to Hitler’s concept.”

— Sean Long is Staff Writer at the Media Research Center. Follow Sean Long on Twitter.