Mexican Immigration in the 20th century: Revolution, Welfare, and Braceros

Read the full transcript.

The Bracero Program began in 1942, and was an agreement between the United States and Mexico, which started the legalization and control of Mexican migrant workers along America’s southern border area. The US was recovering from the social and economic damages caused by the Great Depression, while also sending many of its potential laborers off to war in Europe. So there was a serious need for workers in the country. The program lasted until 1964, and it is estimated that in this 22 year period, approximately 4.6 million Mexican nationals came to work in the U.S. as braceros. In the first year of its creation, the Bracero program led to the US importing roughly 215,000 Mexican nationals to work as agricultural laborers and then another 75,000 would be sent to work of the Southern Pacific railroad along with 20 or so other railroads.

In this continuation of our series on immigration, Dan and Elizabeth focus on the Mexican-American experience within the United States: instances of racism, the importation of Mexican workers, and how Mexican-Americans were intentionally excluded from the welfare state.

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Show Notes & Further Reading

Zamora, Emilio. The World of the Mexican Worker in Texas. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2009.

Katznelson, Ira. When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. Reprint edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006.

Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. 2nd edition. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Fox, Cybelle. Three Worlds of Relief: Race, Immigration, and the American Welfare State from the Progressive Era to the New Deal. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Ngai, Mai. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Updated edition. Princeton University Press, 2014.

Feature Image: “Mexican Farm Workers Who have been Accepted for Farm Labor in the U.S. through the Braceros Program

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