Civil Rights Commission Calls for National Cesar Chavez Day

By Susan Jones | March 31, 2014 | 11:03 AM EDT

California Gov. Edmund Brown Jr., walks in UFW march with Cesar Chavez as hundreds of farm workers follow, Aug. 11, 1979. (AP photo)

( - March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day. It's an official state holiday in California, but it's not a federal holiday -- not yet. But the U.S. Civil Rights Commission wants to change that.

Chairman Martin Castro announced on Monday that the U.S. Civil Rights Commission has sent letters to President Obama and congressional leaders, urging them to create national holidays commemorating the births of Chavez on March 31; and Fred Korematsu on Jan. 30.

Korematsu was a Japanese-American who battled against the internment camps established after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

The letters ask the president issue an executive order declaring those two days national holidays in recognition of both men's contribution to upholding civil rights and liberties for all U.S. citizens.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan agency charged with monitoring federal civil rights enforcement.

A month before the 2012 presidential election, President Obama went to California to establish a national monument honoring Cesar Chavez, the late Mexican-American leader of the United Farm Workers Union.

As reported at the time, Chavez was a foe of open borders and led a 1969 march on the California-Mexico border to oppose illegal immigration.

In 1979, Chavez testified before Congress about illegal immigrants hurting his cause by serving as strike-breakers. He accused the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service of looking the other way to assist strike-breakers. "And if that isn't taking sides, I don't know what taking sides means," he said at the time.

In a statement on Monday, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement celebrating Chavez' life and his social justice work:

"As we remember the farm workers’ struggle and Cesar Chavez’ leadership, we honor his legacy and vision by fighting for an increase in the federal minimum wage, passing comprehensive immigration reform to bring 11 million people out of the shadows, and working for legislation that will help expand opportunity for all Americans," she said.

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