Interior Secretary: ‘If We Did Not Have Immigration to This Country We Would Not Eat’

By Penny Starr | June 28, 2016 | 2:32pm EDT
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke at the Hispanic-American Entrepreneurship Summit in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 2016. ( Starr)

( – Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told attendees at an event on Hispanic-American entrepreneurship on Tuesday that if it were not for legal and illegal immigration into the United States, “we would not eat.”

Jewell said that the country is still trying to address the rights of farm workers, including the role immigration plays.

“I’d say the challenges of immigration reform are a good example,” she said. “If we did not have immigration to this country we would not eat. Whether it’s documented or undocumented, we would not eat,” Jewell said at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C.

At the event, hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jewell praised her predecessor Ken Salazar and said the Obama administration has tried to honor the farm worker’s struggle by designating a Cesar Chavez national monument in California.

“Under Ken Salazar’s leadership, the president designated the Cesar Chavez national monument in California, because the struggle for the rights of farm workers in the United States were very real and very painful and really continue to persist to this day,” Jewell said.

“But having a place and an individual that was such a leader helps inspire new generations to recognize that we stand on his shoulders – we learn from those experiences – but we still have long way to go,” Jewell said.

“And I’d say the challenges of immigration reform are a good example,” Jewell said. “If we did not have immigration to this country we would not eat. Whether it’s documented or undocumented, we would not eat.”

Despite Jewell’s praise and the repeated praise by the Obama administration, Chavez opposed illegal immigration, because it hurt the farm workers he helped unionize. In a Sept. 25, 1975 interview with public radio station KQED in Northern California, Chavez talked about illegals from Mexico being used as “strike breakers” against his unionized workers.

Chavez was talking about a strike against an oil company in the interview.

“We’ve closed them down,” Chavez said. “They’ve been unable to get strike breakers or they’ve gotten very few.

“Then all of a sudden yesterday morning they brought in 220 wetbacks – these are the illegals from Mexico,” Chavez said. “Now there’s no way to defend against that kind of strike breaking.”

The panel discussion Jewell took part in was entitled “Strong Communities: Empowering the Growing Hispanic Population,” described as “an open dialogue between federal principals and invited guests to explore policies instituted under the Obama administration that have helped advance the Hispanic community and create a steady path forward.”

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