Our Spanish phrase of the day is “sin verguenza.” It means someone without shame. As in: Dolores Huerta—the East Coast liberal establishment’s favorite Hispanic and someone who is held up as an iconic labor leader and civil rights figure—is a sin verguenza.
The former vice president of the United Farm Workers union has long exploited her celebrity status. Now, in the 2016 election, Huerta is opportunistically working with People for the American Way, a Washington, D.C.-based liberal organization that has never shown the slightest interest in Latinos or their concerns, in a campaign designed to use the immigration issue to influence Latino voters.
“I believe the Latino community can be the ‘deciders’ and we saw that happen in the 2008 election and the 2012 election,” Huerta recently told the Latino-themed news site Latin Post.
Huerta’s message to Latino voters—as sponsored by People for the American Way—is a variation on something that she said during a speech at a Tucson, Arizona, high school in 2006: “Republicans hate Latinos.” So be sure to vote Democratic.
The goal is to discredit any 2016 Republican hopeful who might have a shot at winning Latino votes. Huerta’s targets so far include Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
About Rubio, she said to Latin Post: ”I think that he [Rubio] is a person we cannot trust because I think he's an opportunist and he's going to say what he needs to say just to get himself elected. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth.”
About Cruz, she said the senator was, through his opposition to Obamacare, at least partially responsible for the “hundreds and thousands” of Texans without health insurance.
And about Bush, she said the GOP establishment favorite can’t be trusted: “He’s another one that first he’s against immigration and then says he’s for immigration.”
The left’s strategy of using Huerta to launch these attacks is based on three assumptions: that Latinos care about immigration above other issues; that Latinos will vote for candidates who are vouched for by other Latinos; and that—when Latino Republicans like Cruz and Rubio need to be attacked—the optics are better when other Latinos fire the salvos.
“It’s not a question of your surname or the language that you can speak,” Huerta told Latin Post. “It’s a question about what values you hold.”
Even as someone who has given lip service to empowering Latinos politically, Huerta went on to explain why she wants a woman (Clinton) in the White House and not a Hispanic Republican (Rubio or Cruz). In other words, ethnicity and language take a back seat to gender and party affiliation.
What makes this ploy of using immigration as a battering ram against Republicans not just cynical but offensive is that—despite Huerta’s recent efforts to re-invent herself as some kind of immigrant advocate—she is nothing of the kind.
That is not who is she now, or who she has ever been. Huerta is a labor leader pure and simple, and, as such, she spent most of her activist career standing next to union members who, convinced that immigrants take jobs and lower wage for U.S. workers, want less immigration, not more of it.
That story is as old as the hills. It’s why the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act—the last significant comprehensive immigration reform measure passed by Congress—was strongly opposed by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups.
We’re supposed to be believe that it’s all different now. The narrative cooked up by liberals and the media is, sometime during the last quarter-century, organized labor learned to stop worrying about foreign competition and embraced immigration.
But that’s fiction. It never happened. The labor movement is more committed than ever to defeating immigration reform efforts that include a path to citizenship for the undocumented. The only difference is now organized labor has learned to be craftier in camouflaging its true agenda.
Just like Huerta, who is obviously hoping that—on the topic of immigration—Latinos will be long on outrage toward Republicans and short on memory when it comes to the UFW.
We’re not supposed to remember that, 40 years ago, the union—which Huerta claims she co-founded—was routinely criticized by Latino leaders like Bert Corona, a community organizer and co-founder of the Mexican-American Political Association, for demanding that the Immigration and Naturalization Service send agents into the fields to arrest and deport illegal immigrants who had crossed the picket line.
We’re not supposed to remember that, in 1973, UFW officials set up a “wet line” on the Arizona-Mexico border to prevent Mexican immigrants from crossing into the United States. Under the supervision of Cesar Chavez’s cousin, Manuel, who was something of a loose cannon, union members physically attacked the immigrants until they were bloody. At the time, The Village Voice scolded the UFW for conducting a “campaign of random terror against anyone hapless enough to fall into its net.”
And we’re not supposed to remember that, in 1979, Chavez testified before Congress—not to demand more protection for illegal immigrants but to demand that the INS do a better job of removing them from the fields.
I’ve recalled this history directly to Huerta, in face-to-face confrontations at various events in California that quickly turned ugly. On the defensive, she insisted none of it ever happened, and claimed that she can say this definitely because, not only does she speak for the union, she in fact “is” the union. The woman is either in denial, dishonest, or delusional.
Huerta will have a tougher time explaining away her more recent betrayal of the Latino community. As an outspoken supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008, Huerta blasted Barack Obama as not responsive to Latino concerns, calling him a “Johnny come lately” to the cause. She even took umbrage to the Obama campaign’s slogan—“Yes we can!,”—which she insisted sounded a lot like the UFW’s rallying cry of “Si se puede.”
”Now they're copying our slogan," she told a reporter at the time. "But you cannot build a relationship no más con una palabra—just with one word.”
Eventually, the relationship between Obama and Huerta improved. In 2010, the president invited Huerta to a state dinner at the White House honoring Mexican President Felipe Calderon. In 2012, Obama presented Huerta with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Now—despite the fact that Obama broke his promise to make comprehensive immigration reform a top priority of his presidency, deported more than 2 million people, divided hundreds of thousands of families, and falsely claimed that those who were removed were predominantly criminals—Huerta sings the praises of the Johnny Come Lately she once criticized.
Let’s see, Huerta accuses Republicans running for president of being blinded by ideology, flip-flopping on immigration, and selling out. She should know. She is an expert on these things.
This is our leader, our moral compass? Says who?
White liberals may have decided among themselves that Dolores Huerta represents Latinos, but she only represents herself. She is an opportunist. She bartered away her credibility. And she needs to spend the 2016 election where she belongs: on the sidelines.