AFL-CIO Official: “The Whole West Was Part of Mexico”

The current (April 10) issue of Time magazine features a brief commentary on immigration by an official of the AFL-CIO:

President, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO

The key problem is making felons out of everyone who is here without documents. What people miss is that includes 1.6 million children. Who thinks of this crazy stuff? These measures are just horrendous. We’ve taken enough bad-mouthing from these talking heads on radio and TV. If this House bill passed, I would be a criminal. And I wouldn’t stop what I’m doing, so I’d be one of the first people arrested. This is no longer just an immigration issue. It is a civil rights movement now.

People forget that less than 170 years ago, the whole West was part of Mexico. Who do you think named Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Antonio? It wasn’t the people who came through Ellis Island. It was us. We didn’t cross any borders. The borders crossed us.


Mr. Velasquez asks, “Who do you think named Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Antonio? It wasn’t the people who came through Ellis Island.”

Since you ask, Mr. Velasquez, it was Europeans:

Los Angeles was named by Father Juan Crespi, a Spanish Franciscan priest and missionary who was born in Palma. It is true that he did not travel to Los Angeles by way of Ellis Island, but the route is immaterial: He hailed from Europe.

San Antonio was named “San Antonio de Padua” by Spaniard Domingo Teran de los Rios in 1691. Teran, remembered today as the first provincial governor of Texas, was a member of the Spanish military who previously had spent twenty years in Spanish service in Peru.

San Francisco was named by Portuguese explorer Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno, who claimed it for Spain.

Mr. Velasquez says, “People forget that less than 170 years ago, the whole West was part of Mexico.”

Some facts about which nations controlled what when:

In the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, the U.S. ceded to Spain the possession of Texas, California and New Mexico (lands included present-day Nevada, Utah, Arizona, parts of Wyoming and Colorado). Other territories, including the Oregon territory, were ceded to the U.S. by Spain.

Mexico was not an independent nation until 1821.

By 1836 the Republic of Texas had established itself separate from Mexico and by 1846 Mexican control of California was in considerable question.

In the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the U.S. paid Mexico approximately $20 million for all of present-day California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of present-day Arisona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. The nation of Mexico by then had officially controlled California and the mentioned territories for less than thirty years.

Mr. Velasquez, who was born in Texas, claims: “We didn’t cross any borders. The borders crossed us.”

Except (arguably) for the Civil War, Texas has been part of the United States since 1846. Mr. Velasquez and his unnamed colleagues must be very, very old.

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