Praising Mistakes Of The Past Is Insanity


(Originally posted 1/12/17 on Read With The Gringa)

The gringa wants to conclude her studies on the history of U.S. immigration by examining a particular policy that was enacted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration in 1954. The incoming Trump administration has threatened a revival of a deportation policy that has already proven disastrous. Again, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, yet expecting different results, is the incoming group of politicians all insane? Is a madman about to take the helm of U.S. government? Will the lunatics be running the asylum in less than two weeks? Let’s take a look at Operation Wetback and see if parallels of this policy should be supported or resisted if Trump attempts to resurrect this dead beast.

After World War I, the nation was hurting for cheap labor, particularly in agriculture. They hoped to fill this void by exploiting imported labor groups from Mexico. As non-citizens, such groups could successfully be exploited because they would not have political representation, other than any interest that their country of origin might have.

However, we learned through the Bracero Program of 1942, that Mexico’s government was also exploiting its own people who participated.  Legal Bracero’s were subject to withholdings from their earnings being kept by the U.S. and Mexico to pay for certain provisions of their Bracero work-visas. Provisions that should have provided benefits but both governments simply kept the money. This resulted in the U.S. not seeing the numbers needed of voluntary migrant workers participating.The gringa doesn’t blame Mexicans for rejecting participation in the program.

But industry will always find a way to meet its own need. Workers who need to make a buck will always find a way around government over-reach into their pocket. The result was that illegal immigration increased and farmers were only too happy to employ them. And, for a time, the US looked the other way while it was convenient and the citizens were satisfied with cheap produce abundantly supplied to their local markets.

But, in the early 1950’s Americans were tiring of being so tolerant to illegal immigrants who were picking those beans they enjoyed with dinner. Eisenhower satisfied their indignation with Operation Wetback. Deportation records indicate that more than one million immigrants were removed from the country. Now, considering that a racial slur was used in an official government record entitled deportation legislation, there is no doubt in the gringa’s mind that this piece of work was racially motivated and wholly approved by a racist white majority population. For shame, America.

But that’s how elitist white majority capitalism works. Exploit without a conscience those with melanin as cheap labor. Then, when your done with them, demonize them and kick them out, even if it means destroying their lives and families.

Once the announcement was made June 9, 1954, that this was the official policy of the U.S., aggressive raids and deportation forces focused their attention on Arizona and California. Law enforcement used methods like roadblocks and checkpoints. Eventually these methods spilled over into Texas as well. Sweeps even reached as far as the states of Washington, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri. Within a couple of months the operation wound down and then, once funding ran out, the government proudly announced that the “problem no longer existed”. Yeah, right. Government officials just didn’t want to admit that no matter how many people they deport, there is really no way to secure a border like the US southern border. It is extensive, porous, and rugged. Trump thinks a wall will work? He must have never heard about the ingenuity of drug smuggling tunnels.

Now, to an American Nationalist, Operation Wetback sounds like a prime example of how to deal with undocumented aliens that are in the country. Well, the gringa says, “Not so fast.” Before you accept your initial knee-jerk reaction, get down to the nitty-gritty, the nuts and bolts, the actual “what exactly happens” kind of stuff.

Currently, there are well over 12 million people in the US with undocumented status. Many of these people enjoy this status through no fault of their own. How many unscrupulous immigration attorneys do you think have taken advantage of vulnerable immigrants, taking their money and never doing a thing to manage their legal paperwork properly? Yeah, that’s a problem. That’s a problem with AMERICAN criminals, not immigrant criminals. Then you have people who have fled their native countries in terror, arrived here undocumented and have the right to apply for refugee status or asylum. In their desperation to get out alive during dangerous internal strife, there is simply no time to secure documents. Proper channels to do such a thing may not even exist. Even if they did, the very people being victimized by their government and needing to escape are also the last people such a government would grant travel documents to. Those are the kind of people our country EXPECTS to arrive undocumented. And how many immigrants do you think have been committed to maintaining a legal status only to fall victim to overcrowded immigration courts who have let their case fall through the cracks? The reality is that such things happen. Sometimes, it’s the US that is to blame.

For all of these reasons, undocumented immigrants have the right of due process as every other citizen and legal immigrant. And if you think we should just forego due process, then you are saying that we should just do away with the foundations of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. The rights of undocumented immigrants are all wrapped up in the very logic and reason behind how every human being enjoys inalienable and civil rights in the US. Are you willing to put your own liberty, freedom and security at risk simply because you have a problem with immigrants?

What kind of country do you really want to live in? Do you really want to live in a country where you have your drive to work interrupted by roadblocks, searches of your car and demands to see your documents? So, you say, “No big deal if you are a citizen.” Once again, the gringa says, “Not so fast.” There’s this little thing called the Civil Rights Act. Think about how roadblocks and ID demands could infringe upon the equal protection of minorities. Take this scenario for example:

The gringa and her caveman are driving separate cars home after picking one up at the repair shop. The gringa reaches the roadblock only to realize that she forgot her ID at home. The cop looks at her white skin, hears her flawless English, albeit with a Texas twang, and waves her on through. Right behind her is the caveman, a US citizen for more than a quarter of a century. He realizes his wallet is in his wife’s handbag because he always wears pocket-less soccer shorts and refuses to carry a man-purse. The cop sees his brown skin and hears that Peruvian accent and then orders him to get out of the vehicle. The car is impounded and the caveman heads downtown, detained for further questioning.

If the caveman is lucky, the gringa will bring his ID and clear everything up. But they are still out of pocket for paying to get the car out of impound. Not to mention the indignity and hassle. But what if the gringa had been out of town? Would it be possible that injustice could occur and the caveman could find himself shipped off to Peru? Is it possible that many like him, US naturalized citizens or legal immigrants, could lose everything if such policies were enacted? The evidence is that many already have.

When Eisenhower started a racist dragnet across the country, caught in that web were many who had every right to be in this country. Yet they were deported. So, in addition to hundreds of unnecessary deaths by heat exhaustion and drowning, the lives of US citizens were destroyed simply because of the color of their skin, the ethnic quality of their name, and, perhaps, the existence of an accent.

If the operation had truly been a success, rather than funds peter out, Congress would have voted for another round. Citizens would have expected enforcement to continue. Instead, US government spin doctors churned out the propaganda that it was such a resounding success there was no more need for deportation round-ups. And it seems that those spin doctors are hard at work for the future Trump administration. Because people who are afraid of melanin can’t admit they are fraidy-cats and bigots can’t admit that bigoted actions are a failure.

So, if you are an advocate for inhumane treatment of fellow humans, ripping apart families, infringing upon the Civil Rights of all citizens and guests to this country, and destroying the lives of some of your fellow Americans, then I am sure that you will be just fine with Trump’s future plans. As long as you are not personally affected, you could care less about what might happen to those “damn furriners”. The gringa would like to ask such people, “You claim, with great pride, to be a citizen of the ‘home of the brave, right? Then why are you so afraid of people with melanin and speak with an accent? Why not grow a pair and make your country proud. Be brave. There are better solutions to this very complicated immigration problem our nation has.”

Sources:

Immigration To United States

Library Of Congress

www.factcheck.org

Politifact

National Public Radio

America’s Voice

Image Credit: felicitysmoak.info.tm

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1943 Bracero Appropriations – Immigrant Exploitation, Again, And Again, And Again…


How many times had the United States implemented immigration policies for the purpose of importing cheap labor and things turned out badly because capitalist utopian ideology did not consider the human and civil rights factor?

  • 1798, new residency guidelines create a system where typical natural life span expires before citizenship requirements can be fulfilled; a dirty trick to continue to entice loads of hopeful immigrants to arrive only to be exploited as a working class with no political representation for the rest of their lives
  • 1882 the U.S. evicted Chinese laborers who had been exploited immigrants for decades as a cheap labor class during the California Gold Rush and railroad construction days
  • 1882, hot on the heels of kicking out the Chinese, the U.S. wanted to bar the door to prevent entry to those damn Irish Catholics and troublesome Germans, among other ethnic groups, who were coming over here and stealing all the jobs as well as creating Socialist rabble-rousers out of the working class. The masses of citizens were screaming for higher wages so it was politically expedient to blame the immigrant, wasn’t it?
  • 1888, the Scott Act once again has the U.S. snubbing its nose at the Chinese, kicking out even the diplomats, travelers who were just passing through, and wealthy elites who had previously been acceptable; once again legislators needed to manage the masses for the stability and economic growth of the nation
  • 1907, The Gentlemen’s Agreement, for the purpose of importing cheap Japanese labor, would also eventually go south, just like the same idea ended disastrously every single time the United States made immigration policies based on greed rather than moral racial equality
  • 1924, and here comes the final slap in the face for the Japanese, labor exploitation with no hope of representation due to the naturalization ban. Does anyone wonder, then, about the reasons behind Pearl Harbor? A national grudge was nursed for almost twenty-years before they slapped the U.S. right back.
  • 1943, after getting slapped back by the Japanese, the US goes crawling to the Chinese out of fear they would become allies with Japan. I can hear it now, “Um, please Chinese people, I know the U.S. treated you worse than a pack of ol’ junkyard dogs. We probably even fed our dogs better than we were willing to pay you guys, but, hey, we’re real sorry. We could really use your help over here and, we’ll make it worth your while. Whaddya say?” And, China returned to the fold like a junkyard dog that gets kicked and smacked but still faithfully sits at the feet of its abuser, or like the battered who bail their abusers out of jail and welcome them home. I say to the government of China in 1943, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” If a country exploited and oppressed this gringa then insulted me and kicked me out I WOULD NEVER GO BACK, FOR NO AMOUNT OF MONEY IN THE WORLD! But, I digress. My real question is, if Japan nursed a grudge for twenty years and then delivered a major smack-down such as the United States had not known up until that time, could China still be nursing a grudge and gauging conditions for the perfect moment to eventually give America the come-uppance it deserves for national insults dished out for decades? The gringa says, “Watch your back! It’s happened before. And that’s why treating people with loyalty and respect is a wise policy. You tend to get it in return.”

And that brings us to April 26, 1943 when the nation formalized an agreement that had developed between Mexico and the U.S. through a series of notes between Joseph F. McGurk, Counsel of the American Embassy in Mexico, and Ernesto Hidalgo, of Mexico’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. With the assistance of Mexico’s Ministry of Labor, the United States’ Farm Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and War Farming Operations within the USDA, the Bracero Agreement opened the gates not only for immigrants from Mexico, but also for all of Central and South America.

The Bracero Agreement outlined what was mandated or what was prohibited in order for these immigrants to enter the nation temporarily and serve as migrant farm labor. These immigrants could not be engaged in military service. They would be entitled to round trip transportation and housing paid for, and provided by, the USDA and participating farms. Braceros were entitled to equal pay. If Braceros were accompanied by children under the age of fourteen, these children were entitled to equal education opportunities just like the children of U.S. citizens. The Mexican government, Mexican Labor Inspectors, and Mexican Consuls had the right to inspect the working conditions of Braseros. Burial service was also included in the act, provided and paid for by the USDA. The gringa wonders if this was indicative of the thought that, just perhaps, these immigrants may be exploited and worked to death. Hmmm, just sayin’, it is curious, isn’t it?

You see, because Mexico was much too docile in this round of negotiation, this program ended up being no better than America’s previous episodes of importing cheap labor. For one thing, farmers didn’t like the government intruding in order to monitor working conditions and wages. The farmers preferred to do things their own way, which usually meant hiring undocumented workers and paying them drastically lower wages. But, with most of the American population diverted to war industry jobs, and all the Japanese detained in internment camps, a labor shortage was created in the lower paying agricultural field. Despite the dissatisfaction of farmers, Roosevelt went ahead with the plan because it was critical to stabilize food sources for the nation, especially during wartime. The nation needed to fill the gap, so the nation decided it would exploit the Mexicans and their southern neighbors.

Roosevelt even whipped out Executive Order No. 8802, written June 25, 1941, to assure civil rights protection of the Braceros. The dear reader jumps for joy and says, “Aha! Aha! Civil rights! Well, well, well, social progress!” The gringa is sorry to disappoint. Don’t get all hopeful that this was proof of Roosevelt having a racial equality agenda in mind. This was more about the success of wartime defense production than civil rights. It was the President wagging his finger at any American who might get some high-and-mighty white supremacist attitude toward the Braceros, or any other people of color, during the critical time of war efforts and production. It was as if Roosevelt was telling these Americans, “Look, behave yourselves! We need this imported cheap labor to win the war!” The Executive Order states “…as a prerequisite to the successful conduct of our national defense production effort, I do hereby reaffirm the policy of the United States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin…” Now, in case you didn’t notice, the gringa will point something out to you. It specified “no discrimination” in defense industry and government sector jobs. If you owned the local café and wanted to discriminate, well, by all means please do. Get it? Yes, you must have a very critical eye as you peruse these tricky documents. So, as for Roosevelt, a non-racist he was not, a cunning leader to war time victory, he was.

Now, the term “bracero” is from the Spanish root, “brazo”, which, in English, means “arm”. Yes, I suppose there will be lots of Spanish-speaking immigrant “arms” being employed as a result of this international agreement. I suppose this concession to try to appear more open-minded by using Spanish terminology was supposed to put at ease the nation’s southern neighbors, distracting them from memories of the prior decades of exploitation. I tell ya, the gringa just wants to pull her hair out! How many times will people from other countries fall for this dirty trick America plays? It’s like breaking up with a terrible boyfriend, then, six months later he comes slinking back and the gal thinks, “Oh, I miss him, “ and gets all wobbly in the knees. The next thing ya know they both have black eyes and the girl is saying to herself, “What the hell was I thinking?” When the U.S. starts squirming with the need to import cheap labor, other countries, listen up! The gringa’s gonna give you some advice! Let ‘em squirm til they wet their pants and THEN you’ll be in a position of power to negotiate the best terms possible. Quit selling out your populace for a quick infusion of cash into your anemic economy! Just stop it!

Despite the provisions to prevent discrimination, such things were enforced half-heartedly, if at all. U.S. federal government oversight was minimal and Mexican government oversight was practically non-existent. People wonder, “Why?” The gringa wonders, “Why do you ask?” I mean, hasn’t it become clear that U.S. immigration policies are always motivated by capitalism or national security? It was in the interest of neither motivator to invest time and money to see that these non-citizens were treated right. America’s only interest was how quickly they could fill a bushel basket. Earning an average of about a buck a day, it is easy to see that the Bracero average income was about one sixth the national average that annually ranged between $1800-$2000. Equal wages? Are you kidding me?

And if low wages weren’t bad enough, their own country robbed them of their future retirement because Mexico had its own interests to serve off the backs of these hapless laborers. The act had a provision that 10% of wages would be deposited into a fund managed by Mexico. It was a plan similar to American wage withholding for Social Security. This compensation was never paid back out to Braseros who found themselves poverty ridden and abandoned by both governments when they reached old age. Is it just the gringa, or do my dear readers also have a problem with the United States exploiting a class of people necessary to help the nation win a war, and, in the end, the nation has no sense of loyalty and gratitude for such efforts and let’s these old folks waste away, disrespected and forgotten. America, these people you robbed and turned your back on played a critical role in keeping your people and military fed during the Second World War. Without them the U.S. would have starved and probably be speaking German by now. Good God, how do you say “betrayal” in German? Shame on the United States. Shame on Mexico.

Because of cultural differences, particularly the language barrier, these migrant workers experienced discrimination on the same scale as former slaves. Braseros often saw signs at businesses that read “no Mexicans” right alongside “no Blacks”. Restaurants would serve them in the kitchen, right alongside the nation’s other second-class citizens. The children of Braceros suffered discriminatory practices as their right to education was exercised and they entered U.S. public schools challenged by a language barrier. Los Angeles County responded to this challenge by forming language workshops for teachers to assist Spanish speaking students in their adjustment to English speaking classrooms. Despite good intentions, however, it fell far short of providing the bi-lingual education these students needed. This resulted in generations of Brasero children receiving little, or no education at all despite the fact it was their legal right, and, the gringa believes, the moral duty of a host nation who was exploiting the student’s parent(s) for wartime production in the name of national security. Shame on the United States and shame on Mexico for allowing sub-standard education conditions to continue and never compensate or correct this injustice to innocent children.

At this time in America’s history, lip service was the only attention civil rights issues received. The façade of America as a humanitarian nation protecting civil rights and promoting a culture of equality among all ethnicities was a sham. Supply and demand was what really mattered in a wartime nation that was rationing food and gasoline. Although I’m sure the Mexican Government was aware of this, I don’t believe that this was the bill of goods that was sold to the Braceros, bless their little hearts.

Sources:

http://www.farmworkers.org/bpaccord.html

http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=72&page=transcript

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1943_bracero_appropriations.html

http://www.ccrh.org/comm/moses/primary/bracero.html

http://www1.american.edu/ted/bracero.htm

http://www.ushistory.org/us/51e.asp

http://www.theseamericans.com/civil-rights/california-collection-civil-rights-speeches-social-conditions-of-mexican-american-youth-1943/

Photo credit:  www.oregonhistoryproject.org