Cesar Chávez would have hated the Biden administration
Biden has issued executive orders that ban enforcing immigration law while simultaneously inviting in a new wave of illegal aliens. These E.O.s also suspend deporting illegal aliens, even those awaiting trial for felonies and other serious crimes, and signal that all new arrivals will be eligible for social benefits such as health care. Cesar Chávez's struggle in the 1970s and '80s can help explain the impact this will have on labor markets in general and working-class Americans in particular. Chávez understood that illegal immigration diminishes workers' earning power.
Chávez, although erroneously described as a civil rights leader, was a labor leader who struggled tirelessly for his Campesinos in the United Farm Workers Union. His struggle was not for the civil rights of Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, Chicanos, non-white people, or any other contemporary identity group. His rallying cry was "la Causa" (the cause), not "la Raza" (the race), and that cause was securing higher wages and better working conditions for his union members.
Chávez's most formidable obstacle was the inexhaustible supply of cheap, illegal labor flooding over the border. He spoke out against it, calling the aliens "illegals" and "wetbacks."
Using language and voicing opinions that would send an MSNBC anchor into apoplectic shock, Chávez called for the strict enforcement of immigration law and end to porous borders. He never attended high school, but he understood basic economics.
Although Donald Trump attended an Ivy League college and never worked in the fields, he also understood economics. The Trump administration, by enforcing immigration laws, created growth in working-class wages unmatched in four decades. By diminishing the availability of illegal workers, Trump allowed the value of labor to grow at a rate not seen since the 1970s. If Chávez were alive today, it is a safe bet that Trump would be his favorite president.
Chávez's principles would not sit well with modern progressives. His beliefs and practices were based on the Catholic principle of subsidiarity — namely, that our local associations are more important than things like race, sex, or sexual orientation. Subsidiarity calls for individuals to be responsible to and for the people with whom they work and share a community. It also holds that political power should devolve to the lowest level possible, such as the neighborhood, village, or town.
In stark contrast to Chávez's vision, the Biden administration has signaled that it will suspend immigration law and is openly encouraging people to enter our country and labor markets. Tens of thousands of people from Mexico and Central America have been receptive to this call, with added encouragement from promises of free health care and social services. Already, just two months into the Biden presidency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities are stretched beyond capacity.
President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the Democrats in Congress pose as virtuous, acting righteously and justifiably, but who pays the price for their virtue and justice? It is working-class Americans of all races, whose wages will again slide as the inevitable forces of supply and demand distort and diminish their value. The leadership class is the big winner in this disaster for two reasons. First, media paint them as good and compassionate, and second, they drive down the labor costs for their campaign contributors and benefactors. It is a win-win for those at the top.
Working-class Americans will lose any advantage they had under the Trump administration as hundreds of thousands of newly admitted workers join the labor force. The Biden administration is sandbagging the wage issue with a half-hearted attempt to increase the federal minimum hourly wage to $15. Any gains in real wages workers realize from a minimum wage hike will be temporary as inflation erodes buying power, not to mention the hundreds of thousands fired from their jobs because their cost will exceed their value.
In the Oval Office, directly behind the Resolute desk, sits a bronze bust of Cesar Chávez that President Biden's staff placed there when he moved in. Leading up to Cesar Chávez Day, March 31, much will be written about Chávez and his bust, and he will be described as a civil rights leader whom our president reveres. Precious little could be farther from the truth. Chávez was a labor leader, not a civil rights leader, and our president reveres the myth of Chávez only insofar as it serves him politically.
Chris Boland can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Cesar Chávez. YouTube screen grab.