Hillary’s campaign held a press call on April 4 that highlighted Bernie’s spotty record on immigration. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez spoke passionately and forcefully about Bernie’s surrogates attacking pro-Hillary civil rights heroes: “Senator Sanders, tell your surrogates to stop the attacks on icons of the Civil Rights movement like Dolores Huerta and John Lewis.”
Gutiérrez was audibly emotional while discussing Huerta, who cofounded the United Farm Workers labor union with legendary Chicano activist Cesar Chavez. Huerta has been under attack from Bernie supporters since February for saying she was told “English only” at a Sanders rally in Nevada and for her open support of Hillary.
In March, actress Rosario Dawson, who played Huerta in a 2014 biopic, wrote a scathing open letter to Huerta in the Huffington Post in which she called the celebrated civil rights figure “an instrument of the establishment.”
It’s an accusation that incensed Latinos everywhere.
Actress Susan Sarandon, another Bernie surrogate, has also attacked Huerta. Here’s a cringe-worthy video of Sarandon getting in Huerta’s face to lecture her on Hillary’s immigration record.
“I find it particularly troubling that Senator Sanders always talks about his positive campaign, and yet his surrogates have demonized John Lewis, an icon in the Civil Rights Movement of the United States of America,” Gutiérrez said. “This Hollywood activist Rosario Dawson lectured Dolores Huerta on immigration and workers rights. What arrogance.”
Gutiérrez is not alone.
“How dare you lecture Dolores Huerta?” Cindy Casares, a columnist for the Texas Observer asked in a recent op-ed for The Guardian US.
“She’s been arrested 22 times while demonstrating for the cause and was even hospitalized in 1988 – as a grandmother – with two broken ribs and a ruptured spleen while protesting President George HW Bush’s opposition to the UFW grape boycott,” Casares wrote. “Forget all of it. Dawson has declared Huerta’s legacy destroyed on Bernie’s behalf.”
Prior to being attacked, Huerta published an article on Medium titled “On Immigration, Bernie Sanders Is Not Who He Says He Is.” The post questioned Bernie’s commitment to immigration reform.
“In 2007, he voted against Senator Ted Kennedy’s immigration reform bill,” Huerta wrote. She noted that Bernie defended his vote by referencing Wall Street:
“What I think [Wall Street is] interested in is seeing a process by which we can bring low-wage labor of all levels into this country to depress wages in America, and I strongly disagree with that.” – Bernie Sanders
“I like Bernie,” Huerta wrote. “He’s a nice guy. I have no doubt he means well. Latinos matter in this election, and he knows it. But my question for Bernie is, where the heck was he for the last 25 years?”
Bernie’s vote against the Ted Kennedy-led immigration reform bill in 2007, which Hillary supported, remains a sore spot for many immigration activists. Also galling is the fact that he defended his vote in an appearance with Lou Dobbs, one of the most prominent and vehement anti-immigrant voices at the time.
On the Clinton campaign press call, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez was direct: “The question Latinos have to ask themselves is: where was Senator Sanders when we needed him the most? For Latinos, the comprehensive immigration legislation is a defining issue. At the moment we needed someone to stand up and defend our vision of immigration, at the moment when immigrants were being demonized, Sanders was playing for the wrong team.”
NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito added: “Senator Sanders has not been there side-by-side with us and that’s why Hillary Clinton really is the best candidate. She has stood with our community for years. She’s not new to our fight, and she’s always been consistent about her quest for equality and social justice.”
Civil rights leaders like Dolores Huerta did not choose Hillary because she is a part of the establishment. She and countless Latinos across the country including Julian and Joaquín Castro, America Ferrera, Marc Anthony, and Salma Hayek, have chosen to put their trust in Hillary because of her excellent track record on immigration, which is something Bernie lacks. It’s that simple.
Huerta does not need Bernie surrogates and supporters (or Bernie himself for that matter) to explain civil rights to her. Nor do Latinos have to sit idly by and allow her name to be tarnished by an increasingly — and self-admittedly — negative Sanders campaign.
UPDATE (4/6/16): Dolores Huerta responds to Rosario Dawson:
The co-founder of the United Farmer Workers said she respects Dawson and still considers her a friend. However, she argues that Dawson’s letter divided Latino voters—a situation she blamed on the Sanders campaign. “I think that our campaign for Hillary Clinton in the Latino community is being effective, and that’s why [the Sanders campaign] is asking people like Rosario Dawson to come out and attack me,” Huerta said. “I guess they think they can silence my voice by doing that.”
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)