Cesar Chavez's Complex History on Immigration

"[T]he illegal aliens are doubly exploited, first because they are farm workers, and second because they are powerless to defend their own interests," he wrote. "But if there were no illegals being used to break our strikes, we could win those strikes overnight and then be in a position to improve the living and working conditions of all farm workers."

He promised that United Farm Workers would support legalization for the undocumented, "our brothers and sisters."

Chavez wasn't alone in changing his ideology, Gutiérrez writes. In fact, his shift from an immigration restrictionist to an "amnesty" supporter reflected the greater movement in Mexican American rights.

A Los Angeles union official at the time summed up this new mindset, saying that Mexican Americans who continued to support restrictive immigration policies "should realize that they would not be here if their fathers had not been illegal aliens," which Gutiérrez says was true for a large portion of people at that time.

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