Between the legacy of César Chávez and the anti-immigrant vision of Republican extremism

Eva Robles works the crops in San Luis, Yuma County, Arizona, picking broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, celery, asparagus, carrots, and dates. She came to Arizona from Sonora, Mexico, at the age of 15; she at 18 she started working in the fields and it took 25 years to get her permanent residence.

With all that effort and even when she shares the same arduous tasks with dozens of undocumented workers every day, this week — as on previous occasions — she will be demonized along with her coworkers by Republicans who come to the border to blame migrants. of all the ills of the country, without acknowledging their contributions to the economy, nor admitting that the hands of those agricultural workers sow, collect, process and pack the food that this nation consumes.

Eva belongs to one of the sectors considered essential, after health care and public safety, which made visible the recent Covid-19 pandemic, and which evidenced the profound dependence of the US economy and society on immigrant workers. . However, there are those who still insist today on minimizing its importance in strengthening a country of immigrants such as the United States.

For example, this week the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing called The Biden Border Crisis: Part 2, in Yuma, Arizona, the birthplace of iconic farm worker leader César Chávez. Just taking a look at the Republican congressmen who make up the delegation - Jim Jordan, Tom McClintock, Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, among the most recalcitrant - it is easy to see that they have come to repeat their tired script of an "uncontrolled" border and a few immigrants that they equate with “terrorists” and “drug traffickers”.

"Since they don't live here (on the border), they don't know how we live," says Eva in a telephone interview. And she adds: “What we do is work hard and help the country's economy. They don't know that we get up, we get cold, in hot weather we get dehydrated, we end up in the hospital and the next day we continue working hard, because we have to harvest the harvest and support our families”.

And this immigrant is quite right, because that hard work is directly reflected in the enormous agricultural production that has made the United States the leader in the sector, a country that was able to contribute $175 billion dollars to the Gross Domestic Product in 2020 ( GDP), along with the fishing and forestry industries, according to New American Economy. In 2018, for example, it was the largest corn-producing nation with 392 million tons. And all this, and more, with the hands of thousands of migrant worker families who are constantly ignored and attacked, as the most extremist wing of the Republican Party, entrenched as a majority right now in Congress, intends to do again in Yuma.

Eva comes from a family of farm workers originally from Sonora. His grandfather, Juan Robles, worked and marched with Chávez, the leader who led the fight for the rights of farm workers who, in today's sun, despite the advances, continue to receive no fair treatment, starting with the legalization of who are undocumented. In fact, it is known that more than 30% of the peasants in the United States are Mexican or of Mexican origin and that their purchasing power is around $881 billion, which represents 57.2% of the total purchasing power of the Latino population of the United States. country. But there are Republican politicians who would like to hide these hard facts.

“My paternal grandfather was in the marches with César Chávez, he was his escort; and my father, since he was seven years old, has worked in the fields and still continues to do so. They were always in the bullfights (seasonal harvests), ”recalls Eva. In such a way that she does not hesitate to call Chávez “our leader”. Well, thanks to him, she adds, “we have privileges that we didn't have before. His legacy is very important. Children are taught history and they come to appreciate its legacy.”

Thus, for her it is outrageous that politicians, on the one hand, accuse immigrants of all evils, and on the other make promises that they do not keep. She says: “It is unfair that they do not provide a solution to the problems we have here at the border. That they come to take the beautiful photo, but that (also) take action on the matter, because people need legalization. They work hard in the hope that there will soon be a solution.”

Indeed, there is no directly proportional reflection between the great effort of thousands of human beings like Eva and the little result that the American political class has given to a simple desire: to be fully recognized before the law as part of society in the one that has been rooted for several generations and that recognizes as home this country that uses them —economically, labor and politically—, but that does not fully accept them. And in this, the specter of racism and discrimination that emanates from traditional Republican rhetoric always appears.

“Many in my family fixed their papers with the amnesty (of 1986), but before that they fought hard (without documents) and left their mark, because work in the fields is not easy,” Eva emphasizes. And she adds: “All of us who work in the fields contribute a bit to the country's economy, because without us it would be different… well, in the fields you will not see an American cutting lettuce or fanning broccoli to be packed. No. We are the ones who fight and bring all the vegetables to the table”.

In Eva's words, an inescapable reality is confirmed: that "of the total number of workers of Mexican origin, eight out of ten were born in Mexico and two are children, grandchildren or more distant descendants of Mexican immigrants who were already born in the United States", as indicates the study "Essential but vulnerable", from the University of California.

"Every time they make promises that this time it will (reform is coming), they get excited and then nothing happens and sadness comes," laments Eva. And she explains: “They come to this country to work and fight. To get their families forward. And they are hoping to obtain a document to go to their countries to see their families and return here to continue fighting and contributing to the country. It's sad. You are going to see people working in the fields who are very old. 80 years old, 85 years old, they want it and they still have the hope of having a document ”.

For his part, José Flores, organizer of the Union of Farm Workers Foundation (UFWF) in Arizona, indicates that one of the missions of the union is precisely "to raise the voices and stories of the people of the border."

And José maintains: “A picture is painted that it is a dangerous and uncontrolled place, and here in San Luis the story is very different. It is a community where people cross the border every day to go to the stores, to school, to work.” In addition, he makes it very clear: "In March, the life and legacy of César Chávez are celebrated in San Luis, (because) the community continues to celebrate César Chávez." So José would like Congress to listen to the people who live there, the workers. Because, in his opinion, these politicians "come in from outside, from Washington, DC, to say what they want to say, but they never connect with the community."

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Nathan Rivera
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