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Law: Bracero Act 1942

 

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Law: Bracero Act 1942

‘Bracero’ is a Spanish term for a manual laborer. The Bracero program was established by an executive program in 1942. Subsequently, diplomatic notes and agreements were passed between the two nations. The program was created as a radical solution to the labor shortage problems that affected the United States during World War 2. Through the program, the importation of temporary laborers into the United States, albeit on a contractual basis, was legalized. The labor shortage that was experienced during the times is attributable to several factors. Firstly, it may be attributable to the Mexican repatriation of the 1930s. Secondly, American farm laborers left agriculture for the lucrative defense industry located in urban areas, which boomed during the course of the war. These factors jointly led to an intense shortage in the agricultural labor market.

Who Supported It

The Republican ideology has been traditionally positioned against immigrations into the United States. This holds regardless of whether such activity is conducted legally or illegally. It is important to note that the Republican views have traditionally not accommodated the working class and ethnic minorities. As a result, the party did not support measures that encouraged the presence of such groups in the United States. In the 1920s sympathizers of the Republican Party called for restrictions on the migrations for Mexican and Asian people into the United States. Consequently, the party sponsored the Immigration Act of 1924 (Wright, 2008). It was aimed at curtailing European immigration into the country, as well as some Mexican movements. In the early 1930s, Hoover and the Republican Party developed a repatriation campaign for Mexicans who lived in the United States, regardless of their citizenship (Shanks, 2001). It is, therefore, seen that the Republicans were naturally positioned against the Bracero program, due to various fears. However, they supported it to some extent, when the realization of extensive shortages dawned on them.

The Democratic Party has traditionally been supported by the working class and ethnic minorities of the American society. Similarly, it has advocated the economic and social advancement of these groups. As a result, it supported the Bracero Programs during the 1940s. It is important to note that the program was initiated during the Democrat administration of Roosevelt. The Democrats of the day supported measures that would ensure the survival of the American agricultural sector, through importation of labor. The urbanized middle class of Mexican Americans had traditionally supported the Democratic Party during the 1920s. These people formed the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). LULAC and the Democratic Party developed general policies towards the welfare of Latin Americans in the United States. It is, therefore, seen that the Democrats supported the Bracero program devoid of reservations (Shanks, 2001).

Impacts on Immigrants

The presence of Mexican migrant workers in the United States resulted in a variety of effects. There were both positive and negative consequences of their arrival there. However, their presence in the early years of the program presented many benefits. It is important to note that the benefits were accrued by both the American society and the migrant workers. By participating in the Bracero program, several benefits were realized by the Mexican workers. Firstly, they gained an income. In Mexico, there was a large market for agricultural workers. This is attributable to the large population of the peasant class of workers. They lived on farms on agreed terms with the land owners. In return for their stay, they provided labor for the plantation owners. Alongside the accommodation, they were provided with meager pay for their work. This situation was mostly a result of the Mexican Revolution of the 1910. The Mexican peasants were left without resources that were needed in improving their lives. The 1930s was a difficult period for the peasants in Mexico. Their crops dried up, resulting in inadequate yields. Similarly, employment opportunities were difficult to come by, due to the Great depression (Wright, 2008).

The Bracero program provided the peasants with an opportunity for improving their socio-economic levels in the Mexican society. The departure of American laborers for the Defense programs provided employment opportunities for the migrants. Wages in the United States were higher than Mexico, even in the agricultural sector. As a result, the migrant workers acquired higher incomes by working on the American farms. Back at home, their families lived in squalid conditions. The fresh income enabled their families to afford commodities that they were previously unable to access. For instance, they could access better food, clothing, and medical care. The program, therefore, assisted the Mexican peasantry in improving their living standards. The remittances also improved the Mexican economy. The peasant farmers back at home were able to access goods that were previously out of their reach, hence developing Mexican industries (Chiquiar and Hanson, 2002).

The Bracero program took place over a period of two decades. The first wave of Braceros experienced advancement in the United States. They were accepted by American citizens and had access to various opportunities in the country. For instance, their children were allowed to access education from American institutions. Subsequently, they gained skills that were necessary for employment opportunities that offered great rewards. As a result, they joined the American middle class and were accepted as part of the society. Economic status plays a role in the acceptance of an individual in society. The program improved socio-economic status improved the standing of Mexicans in the United States. The Bracero program also improved social cohesion between Americans and immigrants from Mexico. It provided a platform for interactions between the two societies, hence fostering understanding between them.

 

References

Chiquiar, D. and Hanson, G. (2002). International migration, self-selection, and the distribution of wages: Evidence from Mexico and the United States.

Shanks, C. (2001). Immigration and the politics of American sovereignty, 1890-1990. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Wright, R. (2008). Chronology of immigration in the United States. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co..

 

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