Profile picture
Erik Loomis @ErikLoomis
, 24 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
This Day in Labor History: August 4, 1942. The Bracero Program, bringing Mexican guestworkers to the US, begins. Let's talk about this exploitative program and our nation's long history of racism toward Latinos.
First, the United States stole the northern half of Mexico in 1848 to expand slavery. Any discussion of our interaction with Mexico has to start here. We stole their land to enslave black people. We then dispossessed Mexicans, even though they didn't even want to be Americans.
At the very least, any Mexican should have full rights to live in the American Southwest. After all, it should be Mexico.
Now, from the moment whites arrived in the Southwest, they sought to exploit Mexican labor. They discovered ways to spit up Mexican land grants, threw independent Mexicans off their land, and sought to use them as low-paid laborers.
While we focus on African-Americans when it comes to lynching, there were lots and lots of lynchings of Mexican-Americans in the southwest. A big part of the reason the Texas Rangers existed was to ensure Mexican subservience to whites, at the point of a gun.
And then, in the 1930s, when whites needed jobs, the U.S. rounded up Mexicans and even US-born Mexican-Americans and deported them. Again, our entire debate over immigration has to start with these facts. And that leads us to the Bracero Program.
During World War II, what seemed like good social policy to many whites (kicking out the Mexicans) turned into a disaster because all of a sudden white people could make a lot more money than they could in the fields.
So U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Mexican President Manuel Avila Camacho agreed to the Bracero Program. Essentially, this provided Mexican labor to American employers through short-term contracts.
When the contract ended, the worker returned to Mexico. Crops are picked, America stays white. By 1945, about 125,000 Mexicans worked under Bracero contracts, not only in agriculture, but for the railroads.
Originally the program was to end in 1947 and the railroad program concluded upon the return of soldiers in 1945.
But southwestern farmers, who, due to their power within their relevant states and long distances from the centers of national power, managed yet again to convince the otherwise pro-labor federal government of the New Deal era to facilitate their exploitation of workers.
By 1956, 456,000 Mexicans labored in the fields under Bracero contracts.
Under these contracts, workers effectively had no rights at all. Because they could be employed legally nowhere besides the fields, they worked in near slave conditions. Contracts were only in English and the Mexicans had no idea what they were signing.
Wages were stolen, housing was substandard if even provided, food was terrible, and complaints resolved by sending workers back to Mexico.
You should read this powerful oral history from Rigoberto Garcia Perez from 2001, recalling his years as a Bracero. If you really want to know what it was like, read it in their own words. Short version: pure exploitation…
It was these sorts of conditions that helped motivate the Chicano rights movement in the United States. In Texas, the conditions were so awful, as white owners ruled their ranches as fiefdoms, that Mexico stopped allowing Braceros to go there.
The Bracero Program finally ended in 1964. Two big changes replaced it.
First, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 that provided a legal pathway for immigrants from most of the world to enter the U.S. for the first time since 1924. Now, Mexicans were excluded from that earlier law, but this provided for quotas from each country.
Unfortunately, the quota from Mexico was way too small and the economic opportunities in the U.S. too large, leading to the rise of undocumented immigration. All of these people should have the opportunity for American citizenship. They have contributed so much.
Second was the establishment of the Border Industrialization Program in 1965. BIP was intended to keep Mexican labor south of the Rio Grande by giving incentives to American companies to cross the river and use cheap Mexican labor.
While capital fled to Mexico, neither increased legal immigration nor BIP came close to filling the employment needs of Mexicans driven from their traditional lands by a complex cluster of factors.
So this is the background to debates over immigration today. It's a story of violence and exploitation and white supremacy. It's a story of dispossession and harm and farmers seeking cheap labor. So Trump locking up babies in cages is right in line with all of this.
In short, American whites have never admitted that Mexicans have a legitimate place in this country. They move from Iowa to Arizona and then resent seeing brown people. Yet they are living on stolen land while relying on cheap Mexican labor. The Bracero Program is part of this.
Back tomorrow to discuss the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Erik Loomis
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!