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 the summer of 1969, relates to a complaint made by the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) regarding potential civil rights violations against grape strikers and demonstrators carried out by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department in Arizona [File #44-43004 (Part 1)].
On July 15, UFWOC representative Gustavo Gutierrez sent a letter to U.S. attorney Richard K. Burke that outlined incidents of harassment against farm workers and protesters at the hands of deputies from the sheriff's department. At the recommendation of the FBI's field office in Arizona, FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., forwarded the case to the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, as shown in a memo dated July 29. The FBI directed its Phoenix office to carry out an interview with Gutierrez at the request of the assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division.
On August 5, the Phoenix office sent back a report on its interview with Gutierrez, who had furnished the FBI with a typewritten list of accounts from UFWOC members detailing incidents in which their civil rights were possibly violated by law enforcement.