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Policy: Labor

Robert Menendez blocked GOP effort to honor Cesar Chavez's immigration stance

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Congress,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Immigration,Senate,Labor,Jeff Sessions

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., found himself in the awkward position of having to object to a Senate resolution honoring the life and legacy of the late Latino activist and union organizer Cesar Chavez after Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., proposed amending it to highlight Chavez's long record of opposition to illegal immigration.

The irony was heightened by the fact that Menendez had to come to the Senate floor to call on Republicans to agree to a resolution on Chavez. Monday would have been Chavez's 87th birthday.

"He dedicated his life to fighting for equality, justice, and dignity — not only for Hispanic farm workers but for all workers in the United States. Yet our friends on the other side cannot find it in their hearts to honor him," Menendez said Monday afternoon.

Sessions then called Menendez's bluff by calling on him to agree to an amendment written by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., that would include the following passage:

Whereas Cesar Estrada Chavez recognized the importance of a secure southern border with Mexico, through citizen participation in enforcement of immigration laws, by encouraging members of the United Farm Workers of America to contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service to report instances of illegal labor ...

This left Menendez sputtering. He objected, calling the amendment "an injustice to his memory." Session objected to allowing the resolution without the amendment, so it died.

Notably, Menendez did not call Vitter's language false. Chavez was in fact a staunch opponent of illegal immigration who advised members of his union to act exactly as the GOP senator stated.

Hat tip: Neil Munro

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