By: William H. Tucker, Publisher
The need of U.S. employers to import Mexican manual labor was first caused by the expansion of cattle ranches in the Southwest, and by the increase of fruit production in California between 1850 and 1880. Between 1850 and 1880, 55,000 Mexican workers immigrated to the United States to become field hands in regions that had, until very recently, belonged to Mexico.
The presence of Mexican workers in the American labor market started with the construction of the railroad between Mexico and the U.S. That presence grew between 1880 and 1890. As much as 60 percent of the railway working crews were Mexican. Rodolfo Tuiran, in his paper “Past and Present of the Mexican Immigration to the United States”, reports that the initial flood of migrant workers to the United States were mainly skilled miners, work hands from cattle ranches in Mexico, indentured servants fleeing Mexican farms, small independent producers who were forced north by natural disasters or Indian raids and workers affected by the secession. The immigration intensified with the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It is estimated that between 1910 and 1917, 53 thousand workers per year migrated to the U.S.
Another factor that contributed to the migration of Mexican workers to the U.S. was World War One. During the war Mexican workers performed jobs not only in the agricultural field but also in the industry and service area. In those years it was easy for the Mexican workers to enter the United States because they were needed.
After World War One ended the need for Mexican workers diminished except in the agricultural industry. The years of the Great Depression saw another exodus of many persons of Mexican heritage including some who were U.S. citizens. A report in USA Today, published in 2006, stated: “Tens of thousands, and possibly more than 400,000, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were pressured through raids and job denials to leave the USA during the Depression. Every President from Hoover to Obama has had to meet the problem of illegal Mexican immigration.
It seemed whenever the United States found a reason to close the door on Mexican immigration, some event would force them to reopen that door. Such was the case when the United States entered World War II. In 1942, the United States was heading to war with the fascist powers of Europe. Labor was siphoned from all areas of United States industry and poured into those which supported the war efforts. Between the period of 1942 and 1964, millions of Mexicans were imported into the U.S. under the Bracero Program to work temporarily on contract to United States growers. After the war, however, during the Truman years more than 127,000 were formally deported and more than 3.2 million left voluntarily rather than face deportation — a total of nearly 3.4 million.
In 1954, President Eisenhower implemented operation “Wet Back” that saw another 1.3 million Mexicans deported or voluntarily repatriated in a just a few months. Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, Carter, Clinton, and Bush have all had programs to address the problem of illegal immigration but none of them have been successful in resolving the problem.
Today it is estimated that there are over ten million illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States and 13.9 million Mexican families affected by our immigration policy. Mass deportation is not the answer to the problem.
The recent change in U.S. policy seems to be a reasonable first step in formulating a comprehensive solution. The Obama Administration has said that it will delay deporting many illegal immigrants who don’t have criminal records and will offer them a chance to apply for a work permit. The government will focus on sending back criminals and those who might be a national security or public safety threat. This seems to be a reasonable approach to a very difficult problem; however, the Republicans have stalled this effort with a series of federal lawsuits and received an injunction from a Texas federal court (no surprise here) prohibiting the implementation of this approach. The Republicans have a majority in both the house and the senate that would put the “ball” in their court to come up with some meaningful legislation to tackle this important issue of immigration but they seem to be divided on the issue and reluctant to act.
It’s time to address the problem!
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