The Past As Prologue: Mexican Repatriation

From Wikipedia:

The Mexican Repatriation was the mass deportation of ½-2 million people from the United States to Mexico between 1929 and 1936.[1][2] Widely blamed for exacerbating the overall economic downturn,[3] Mexicans were further targeted because of “the proximity of the Mexican border, the physical distinctiveness of mestizos, and easily identifiable barrios.”[4]:29

Estimates of how many were repatriated range from 500,000 to 2,000,000,[5][6] of whom 60% were US-born citizens.[6]:330 Because the forced movement was based on race, and ignored citizenship, one scholar has argued that the process meets modern standards for ethnic cleansing.

Following the Wall Street crash of 1929 President Herbert Hoover pressed for deportation of Mexicans, in order to respond to criticisms from organized labor.[6]:4, 74–75 This built on existing nativist sentiment, exemplified by a series run on the racial inferiority of Mexicans run by the Saturday Evening Post.[4]:27–28 [14]:fn 14 Local media and political groups often echoed these calls.

As a result of these political and economic pressures, large numbers of Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans were repatriated during the early 1930s…

Justifications for repatriation[edit]

Even before the Wall Street crash, a variety of “small farmers, progressives, labor unions, eugenicists, and racists” called for restrictions on Mexican immigration.[5]:26 Their arguments focused primarily on competition for jobs, and the cost of public assistance for indigents.[5]:26[6]:98Racism was also a factor.[14]:374–377[5]:29

For example, in Los Angeles, C.P. Visel, the spokesman for Los Angeles Citizens Committee for Coordination of Unemployment Relief (LACCCU), wrote to the federal government that deportation was necessary because “[w]e need their jobs for needy citizens”.[6]:67 A member of the Los Angeles County board of Supervisors, H.M. Blaine, is recorded as saying “the majority of the Mexicans in the Los Angeles Colonia were either on relief or were public charges.”[6]:99 Similarly, Congressman Martin Dies wrote in the Chicago Herald-Examiner that the “large alien population is the basic cause of unemployment.”[14]:377 Independent groups such as the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the National Club of America for Americans also thought that deporting Mexicans would free up jobs for U.S. citizens and the latter group urged Americans to pressure the government into deporting Mexicans…

The streets of East Los Angeles, a heavily populated Mexican area, were deserted only after the first few days that raids had been conducted.[5] Local merchants complained to investigators that the raids were bad for their businesses. According to Balderrama, “Raids assumed the logistics of full-scale paramilitary operations. Federal officials, country deputy sheriffs, and city police cooperated in local roundups in order to assure maximum success.”[6]:71 Sheriff Traeger and his deputies’ tactics included large round ups of Mexicans who were arbitrarily arrested and taken to jail without checking whether or not the people were carrying legal documentation.[5] Jose David Orozco described on his local radio station the “women crying in the streets when not finding their husbands” after deportation sweeps had occurred.”[6]:70 Mexican Consulates across the country were receiving complaints of “harassment, beatings, heavy-handed tactics, and verbal abuse”.[6]:79

These raids include the San Fernando Raid, La Placita Raid, and El Monte Raid. The San Fernando Raid took place on Ash Wednesday 1931. Immigration agents and deputies blocked off all exits to the Mexican neighborhood and “rode around the neighborhood with their sirens wailing and advising people to surrender themselves to the authorities.”[6]:72 The La Placita Raid occurred on February 26, 1931. Led by Watkins, immigration officers enclosed a park with 400 Mexicans. Everyone in the park was made to line up and show evidence of legal entry into the United States before they could leave.[6][page needed] In the El Monte Raid, 300 people were stopped and questioned, 13 were jailed, and of the 13 jailed, 12 were Mexican.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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