• July 21st, 2024
  • Sunday, 07:18:19 AM

United Farm Workers Leadership, Immigrants Continue Legacy of César Chávez


Photo: USCIS/twitter Ur M. Jaddou, director for the USCIS presented Teresa Romero, President of the United Farm Workers with the Outstanding Americans by Choice award.

 

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden honored César Chávez on Monday, just a few days before what would have been the civil rights and farm labor leader’s 95th birthday (March 31) by helping swear in 31 immigrants from nine countries as new U.S. citizens during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ceremony where Chávez lived and labored his last quarter century in Keene, California. One of the new citizens is a United Farm Workers Foundation member from Bakersfield, California, whose husband is a farm worker, Claudia Marcela Campos.

 

“I know how hard you have worked to be here today—how long many of you have waited. You’ve had to sacrifice—to adapt— and I also know that the values that make you who you are, and brought you this far, have only been strengthened by your journey. Today, you are not just Americans. You are Americans by choice,” said Dr. Biden. “And like so many generations of immigrants who have come before you, you will shape your corner of our country to be stronger, more unique, and more beautiful than before. We are grateful to welcome you today—and we are proud to call you our countrymen and women.”

 

“My respect for the UFW and the farm workers—and my understanding of their struggles—hails from the fact that when I came to América, I did not speak or understand English.”
Teresa Romero, United Farm Workers

 

USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou administered the Oath of Allegiance and presented a national award to United Farm Workers (UFW) President Teresa Romero, herself an immigrant and naturalized citizen, as an Outstanding American by Choice.

 

Photo: Joel Levine/CC 3.0/wikimedia Farmworkers leader, César Chávez, speaking at rally during Delano grape strike in 1974.

Dr. Biden expanded on the efforts of Romero and the UFW.

 

“As many of you know, in just a few days, we will celebrate César Chávez Day,” said the First Lady. “Last year, I spent it at the Forty Acres with the United Farm Workers. So, I’m excited to honor a woman who has taken up his legacy: Teresa Romero. Teresa, with your leadership, the United Farm Workers continues to be a voice of justice and humanity for the hard-working people who keep food on our tables. You make our nation stronger every day.

 

“And you remind us of César’s words: ‘God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth.’

 

“His words are a call to all Americans—to raise our voices, to bring our best—and that is especially true of you, our newest Americans,” said Dr. Biden to those at the naturalization ceremony. “Because who knows the value of justice better than those who have faced persecution and exploitation? Who knows how to build strong communities better than those who have left behind destruction? Who knows the possibility of a dream better than those who traveled miles just to find it?”

 

Romero is the first Latina and first immigrant woman to become president of a national union in the United States. She replaced Arturo S. Rodríguez as the third president of United Farm Workers in December of 2018.

 

“I first came to this country in my 20s, seeking a better life for myself—like millions of immigrants before me, like many of you,” stated Romero. “My respect for the UFW and the farm workers—and my understanding of their struggles—hails from the fact that when I came to América, I did not speak or understand English. I appreciate what it is like to come to a new country, to be exposed to a new language, a new culture, a new people. I have come to be equally proud of my Mexican and Zapotecan heritage as well as my U.S. citizenship.”

 

Photo: USCIS First Lady Dr. Jill Biden welcomed 31 new US citizens during a naturalization ceremony held in observance of César Chávez Day.

César Chávez Foundation President Paul F. Chávez also delivered remarks at the ceremony. “My dad was the son and grandson of immigrants who in the late 1800s fled the servitude of the hacienda system in México. They sought opportunities they knew they could never have in their native country, sharing the dream of all immigrants—then and now—to partake in the opportunities, benefits, and prosperity this nation offers. But my father was convinced American citizenship is about more than taking an oath and waving the American flag. Citizenship is about empowering yourself and your community through participation, becoming fully informed, registering to vote, voting, and becoming fully engaged in your community’s civic, political, and cultural affairs.”

 

It is the second year in a row the first lady is visiting a farm worker movement historical property on or around Chávez’s birthday. On March 31, 2021, she marked the occasion by participating in a mass farm worker vaccination clinic at the “Forty Acres” near Delano, California, the movement’s headquarters before Chávez moved it to Keene, California in 1971.

 

Photo: USCIS Thirty-one immigrants from nine countries were sworn in as new U.S. citizens during a USCIS ceremony in honor of César Chávez.

Also historically significant is the 187-acre Keene property in the Tehachapi Mountains east of Bakersfield in Kern County. Comprising three acres of it is the César E. Chávez National Monument, the 398th unit of the National Park Service administered in a partnership by the park service and the National Chávez Center, part of the Chávez foundation.

 

Thousands of farm workers and supporters flowed through what Chávez named La Paz over the decades to plan and do their daily work—from organizing and boycotting to contract bargaining, administration, and financial management. La Paz was where many of the most important UFW campaigns—from the early 1970s onward—were devised, planned, and often coordinated. It was also where Chávez built a community of fellow union members and volunteers who worked with him full time for social justice. It was where Chávez and his colleagues lived out the principles they cherished, including nonviolence, simplicity of lifestyle and service to others.

 

Monday’s naturalization ceremony was held in the 17,000 square foot Mission style structure now called Villa La Paz. It was where generations of farm worker leaders learned to run their own union by organizing, negotiating and administering union contracts, and resolving differences with growers.

Photo: UFW Teresa Romero (left), United Farm Workers, is the first Latina and first immigrant woman to become president of a national union in the U.S. /

 

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