Bracero Stories


Last week, Hector Tobar wrote an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times on one man’s history as part of the “Bracero Program.” As Tobar adroitly concludes, “Many things have changed in half a century. And many things have not.”

The “Border Beat” (January 5, 2009)

The first “Border Beat” of the new year has a little something for everybody: averted political scandal; drug smuggling; religion; labor importation; and blood.

• “WWII guest workers from Mexico apply for back pay” (Arizona Republic)
During WWII, in order to combat an increasing labor shortage, the U.S. and Mexico entered into an agreement called the Emergency Labor Program. For two decades, some version of the “temporary” program existed to provide affordable labor to (mostly) Western agricultural interests. Sadly, these workers were never given the full pay promised to them. In the late 1990s, a decades-old quest of surviving workers to get their back pay entered the courts. It seems their struggle may be over; it also seems, for most, justice will never be served.

• “Obama faces Mexican drug war” (Washington Times)
The drug-related violence in Mexico and the U.S. is one of many issues the next President inherits which is both a growing catastrophe and a complex of few easy answers, politically that is. The nature of this context of violence is exceedingly reflective of the kinds transnational connections which bind us as a globe: government funding here, death there; and drug demand here, drug supply there. But they are also a reflection of the collapsing of divisions that have provided an illusion of our distance.

• “U.S. dioceses recruit foreign priests” (SF Chronicle)
This is a delightfully in-depth article relating the the inability of the U.S. Catholic Church to meet its own “labor” needs. At the same time, the Church is reflecting a kind of U.S. cultural arrogance which views its needs as more pressing than those of the rest of the (Catholic) world. For those interested in the intersections of immigration, religion, and culture, this is a must-read.

• “Tijuana’s bloodiest year” (San Diego Union-Tribune)
This is a more Mexico-centered detail of the drug violence at the border. The human cost of the current situation is tragic to a degree possessing a sense of urgency. In addition to the numbers, I was equally drawn to the description of the killers:

Mexican authorities say that the killers are typically between 18 and 25, members of broken families lured by easy money into a life of crime, recruited in Tijuana and other parts of Mexico. They belong to a new generation of criminals operating with fewers (sic) controls as drug cartels evolve from traditional hierarchies to networks of smaller, semi-independent cells.

• “U.S. smooths away an illegal border crossing wrinkle” (LA Times)
The border initiatives of the United States literally alter the earth. They’ve filled “Smuggler’s Gulch”:

The canyon has been all but wiped off the landscape, its steep walls carved into gentle slopes, its depths filled with 35,000 truckloads of dirt as the federal government nears completion of an extensive border reinforcement project at the southwesternmost point of the United States.

• “California Supreme Court to take on state law granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants” (LA Times)
It looks like California’s monumental educational access measure AB 540–which allowed undocumented students who had been long-term residents to pay in-state tuition at state universities and colleges–will face judicial review.

And, finally…

• “Richardson Won’t Pursue Cabinet Post” (NY Times)
Bill Richardson has withdrawn his nomination to head the Commerce Department. That leaves only two Obama cabinet appointments who are Latino. We’ll see who he names in Richardson’s place.

The “Border Beat” (November 24, 2008)

Guess what?  The “Border Beat” missed you too.  It’s just that we were so busy with work.  Plus, our friend came from out of town for a visit and then we were kind of overcome with all the blog activity of the Obama win.  And we have this scratch in the back of our throat.  Come to think of it, we did write, didn’t you get it?

What’s that?

Damn you!  You’re right.  We promise to be better.

Here’s the latest news and views straight from the heart of Latinolandia. . .

• “Owed Back Pay, Guest Workers Comb the Past” (New York Times)
The struggle for economic justice waged by these men is historic and a long time coming.  For decades, and now for almost 7 years in the courts, these former “guest workers” (read: “colonized labor”) have been fighting for nothing other than their pay.  It seems to have reached a new plateau and, hopefully, an end.

• “Giving up on the American dream” (Denver Post)
The article is an overly balanced (neoliberal) take on the reduction in “illegal immigration.” As far as the “issue” goes, let’s try and remember what this all says (immigration is economic and reciprocal) the next time we have to hear some idiot talk about how “everyone would come live in America if they could.” As for the title, it is as fitting for the article as it is for my attitude after reading the comments from my fellow countrymen and women.

• “FBI finds attacks against Latinos on rise” (Newsday)
See, this is how it works: you take people’s fears and anxieties and help focus them toward an explanatory hate directed at a racial/ethnic minority; and then, they start hurting them. The latest version of this story is called “Lynching Latinos.”

• “GOP must win back Latino vote” (Sacramento Bee)
This opinion piece makes a some sensible and fact-based conclusions about the need for the Republican Party to reach out to Latinos. This guy better watch out–people shoot sensible and fact-based Republicans out here!

• “A new look at Asian immigrants” (Boston Globe)
Hmmmmm. Is there an Asian/Latino bear hug in our sociopolitical future?  Did we just feel it on November 4th?

• “Handling of immigrant children is criticized” (El Paso Times)
I’ll just quote a sentence from the recent report which exposed the abuse of immigrant children at the hands of U.S. immigration officials and bureaucratic procedures: “The U.S. treats undocumented, unaccompanied children with a shocking lack of concern.” This article includes a link to the full report–“A Child Alone and Without Papers”–written by the Center for Public Policy in Austin.

Historic Photo of the Week
Segregation signs were also commonplace in the pre-WWII U.S. Southwest.

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