Mi Pueblo Supermarket Chain Chief Criticized for Using E-Verify

Matt O’Brien, Marin Independent Journal, September 7, 2012

His rags-to-riches immigrant journey and good business sense crowned Juvenal Chavez the king of Latino supermarkets in the Bay Area—and brought praise for revitalizing San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood—but now the CEO is fighting a harsh attack on the reputation of his 21-store Mi Pueblo Foods grocery chain.

Mi Pueblo stunned some of its more than 3,000 employees last month when it told them it had joined E-Verify, a Department of Homeland Security program that screens the immigration status of new hires.

Now, with union activists accusing Chavez of betraying his own undocumented immigrant roots and threatening a consumer boycott if he doesn’t pull out of E-Verify by October, the entrepreneur is fighting back in a war of words against the union and political opposition.

A protest outside the chain’s San Jose headquarters on Thursday was “part of an ongoing campaign against Mi Pueblo (to) damage our good name,” said spokeswoman Perla Rodriguez, who accused labor unions of an underhanded campaign to distort the company’s record of advocacy for the Bay Area’s Latino community.

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Among Mi Pueblo’s most prominent critics regarding E-Verify is Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, who said in December that armed security guards escorted him from a San Jose store when he paid a visit after hearing complaints about work conditions. The company had said the visit by Cortese, a likely 2014 candidate for mayor of San Jose, was a union-organized “media stunt.”

Now, the E-Verify controversy is fueling the ongoing disputes. Labor organizers trying to unionize Latino and Asian ethnic markets across the state are attacking Chavez as a hypocrite, citing past media reports in which he revealed he came to the United States illegally from Mexico as a young man in the 1980s.

“He comes here undocumented and now he’s going after undocumented workers,” said Mike Henneberry of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5. “I think that’s a little hypocritical. If it’s not hypocritical, it’s a little ironic.”

Rodriguez countered that Chavez is a longtime U.S. citizen and a community advocate who supports fixing the “broken” immigration system and has funded scholarships for undocumented students. She said she didn’t know how he arrived to the country. That question, she said, is “very personal and it is not pertinent to operation of the company.” Chavez declined repeated requests for comment.

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Mi Pueblo signed up for E-Verify on Aug. 14, joining more than 30,400 California employers and 109,205 work sites across the state that belong to the expanding work-verification network, according to Sharon Rummery, spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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Mi Pueblo joined upon the federal government’s recommendation, said spokeswoman Perla Rodriguez, who said it was a tough decision for company executives to make.

“This is something many Hispanic grocery stores” have to deal with, she said.

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  • mobilebay

    When will the stupid phrase – “fix our broken immigration system -” stop being bandied about? The system isn’t broken. It just isn’t enforced. And it will never be enforced. The main thrust of our government is to turn this country into an extension of the all the countries that lie beneath our southern border. Take a look at pictures showing crowds on the streets, classrooms, any type of gathering at all. Do you see the faces represented? An overwhelming preponderance of Hispanics. Yet, we are stuck in a time warp of 11 million. We left that figure behind years ago. If we truly knew the number of invaders, we’d be scared out of our wits. It won’t get any better with time. We not only have untold numbers sneaking into the country, we bring in thousands of legal immigrants monthly, refugees for any number of reasons, an alphabet of visa holders and anyone who can walk, swim or fly in. That, my friends is why we have 22 million Americans unemployed.

    • newscomments70

      “fix our broken immigration system -”  As you know, that only means open borders and blanket amnesty…more liberalspeak.

    • The__Bobster

      The real number of illegals is 30-38 million. If that number got out, there would be no chance that amnesty would pass.

      • sal

        No human being is “ILLEGAL”, the correct term to use is “undocumented”. Again, my dear you better go back to school to improve your vocabulary.

  • The Worlds Scapegoat

    I wonder if Mr. Illegal would have done as good in business if he didn’t get preferential treatment and free minority small business administration money.  During the 1980’s and 1990’s, whites were not allowed to open any type of grocery or convenience store in the San Francisco Bay Area. I know, I tried, and was refused because I was white.

    • IstvanIN

       By law, please tell us more….

  • bluffcreek1967

    What the critics of Juvenal Chavez are really saying is that one cannot be a good Mexican unless he condones and does everything in his power to nullify America’s immigration laws. He’s viewed not merely as a hypocrite, but also as a traitor to his own people. The vast majority of Mexicans born here – or – who are here lawfully will NEVER oppose illegal immigration because they are identified with the invaders both by blood and culture.   

  •  I support this former illegal who has seen the light. Arrest the union activsit for perpetuating crime.

  • 1Forced_Registration

     I have suspected the real number to have hit 30 million illegals more than 5 years ago. At that time the government of Mexico had openly said “more than 25% of our population is working in America without papers”. I figured the Mexican government would have a better idea than our own in terms of tracking their people. This doesn’t include all of the illegals from other places. I had to figure 10% of the total population of the US is here illegally at that time, and I can’t think that the number has decreased due to “enforcement” as there isn’t any real enforcement.

  • Sardonicus

    An earlier Chavez “Caesar” was also against hiring illegal immigrants. Cheap labor though illegal immigration hurts native born Chicanos, Whites and Blacks in a competitive job market. I agree with Pat Buchanan that immigration should be linked to unemployment and until unemployment drops below six percent all immigration should be severely limited if not completely curtailed. This issue should transcend race, but our political elites seem determined to continue their “elect a new people” policy to assure a permanent liberal-minority-feminist political domination.

  • If this scandal (we are already lost as a nation when the enforcement of our
    immigration laws is considered scandalous) continues, look for Chavez do a 180
    after seeing the error of his ways. The pressure from militant hispanics who do
    not recognize US sovereignty, not to mention immigration laws will be more
    than he is wiling to tolerate. At the end of the day, La Raza trumps all else
    with these people.

  • Carmen Johnson

    thanks