¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #105-157123 (Part 4)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #105-157123 (Part 4)
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The primary source document described below, which can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail at right, is part of a 1,434-page file on César Chávez and the farmworker movement compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 1965 and 1973. The FBI's surveillance of Chávez, which paralleled larger efforts to prove that protest groups of the civil rights era had been infiltrated by subversive influences, was unable to uncover any evidence of communism or corruption in the activities of Chávez and his followers.

The FBI's dossier on
Chávez was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which contains provisions that allowed the FBI to withhold portions of the documents from public view. Indeed, many parts—and in some cases, entire pages—have been excised from the files. Nevertheless, the collection provides a compelling window into the efforts of the farmworker movement, as well as the values and methods of the FBI itself.

This series of documents, from 1974 and 1975, include a UPI newswire item on César Chávez's national campaign to stop undocumented workers from entering the United States; three commentaries on Chávez and the farmworker movement by labor journalist Victor Riesel; an FBI summary of information obtained from a review of references to Chávez in Bureau files; and a report on Chávez's address at a rally in Merced, California.

From the UPI newswire is an article dated June 25, 1974, reported from Louisville, Kentucky, that Chávez was planning to launch a nationwide campaign to address the "terrible problem" of undocumented Mexican and Filipino workers coming into the United States to take jobs from union members and undermine organized strikes against grape and lettuce growers. In the article, Chávez criticizes the Department of Justice for failing to enforce immigration laws.

Also appearing in the file are three "Inside Labor" articles by syndicated columnist Riesel. In one piece dated September 25, 1974, Riesel comments on Chávez's worldwide influence and his union's picket of the Conference of Christians and Jews, where the president of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company was being honored.

Subsequent pages include a summary of a search of FBI files related to Chávez, dated February 13, 1975. The summary includes a detailed list of nationwide events that Chávez had attended or planned to attend from 1966 to 1974.

The final document is a letterhead memorandum from the FBI's Sacramento field office, dated August 11, 1975, in which a source relayed that Chávez had given a speech before a group of mostly farm workers at a large fiesta at the Merced County fairgrounds. The source described a confrontation between partygoers and Merced police, which escalated after officers attempted to close down the event.

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