With the passing of “Cesar Chavez Day,” legislators, immigration activists, filmmakers such as Diego Luna, and even the White House used this time to commemorate the legacy of Cesar Chavez. Yesterday, the White House recognized ten national leaders who embodied the values and spirit of the late Cesar Chavez. President Barack Obama once again proclaimed March 31st as “Cesar Chavez Day.” Diego Luna released a new biopic titled “Cesar Chavez” which recounts the victories and struggles of Chavez. Resolutions honoring Chavez were also introduced in the House and Senate.
Unfortunately, things did not go as smoothly in the U.S. Senate yesterday. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), tried to get a unanimous consent to a resolution commemorating the legacy of Cesar Chavez. This request was shot down by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and other GOP Senators such as Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who requested that there should be added text in which it is reiterated that Chavez was against illegal immigration because he believed it hurt U.S. farm workers. This request drew an immediate rebuke from Senate Democrats who have unsuccessfully tried to pass this resolution for eight years. Senator Menendez visibly upset told Politico on Monday, “It’s really shameful that we can pass, you know, commemorative resolutions on some of the most insignificant things, but on the life of someone who changed the course of this country for millions of Latinos who understand that life and history would want to see that life commemorated, that there can be objections [for] eight year.”
It seems as the topic of immigration has once again ruined the chances of passing the resolution. One may wonder what immigration has to do with the honoring of a great individual. Yet is has everything to do with him, or at least that is the strategy immigration advocates are currently pursuing. Immigration-reform supporters are using Chavez’s birthday on March 31st as a way to ramp up energy for immigration reform, even though the prospect of House Republicans taking any action this year is highly unlikely. Mark Zuckenberg’s pro-immigration advocacy group, FWD.us, and United Farm Workers of America partnered up and are offering movie screenings of the new Cesar Chavez biopic in four cities throughout the US.
Some people were left wondering why some in the GOP would block a largely symbolic resolution; more so when the individual in question is a Latino leader who is revered by millions across the country. It is safe to assume this legislative block does not help the GOP in terms of their much needed Hispanic voter outreach. With the current GOP Latino image problem, it would have been advantageous for them to agree on the unanimous consent requested by Sen. Menendez.
Carlos Vera is a Staff Writer at Latino Giant. Originally from Colombia, Carlos grew up in Southern California and has served in the Army Reserves since 2011. He is a junior at American University, pursuing a degree in Political Science. He is currently studying abroad in Brussels where is he is a Legislative Intern at the European Parliament. He is passionate about the intersection between policy, advocacy and community development as it pertains to Latinos in United States.