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More than 44.5 million immigrants resided in the United States in 2017, which is the historical high since census records have been kept and according to 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) data, one in seven U.S. residents is foreign born. In this essay I will be talking about the history of immigration, specifically from Mexico into the US, how immigrants are currently treated in our current society, and how by gaining citizenship it can take off some of the fear or pressure of the relationship between immigrants and non-immigrants.
Seeing as we are just north of the state, immigration from Mexico to the US is a topic that has had a pretty tumultuous and long history, so bear with me here. To start off, we take our attention to, at the time of Texas’s annexation from Mexico, one particular man who was an important figure to the immigrants. The man I am talking about is José Antonio Navarro. José Antonio Navarro contributed to the first immigrant wave of Mexicans into Texas. He was a friend of Texas’s founder Stephen F. Austin, was one of the only people who advocated for Mexican Texans as a part of the Texas Senate, and was one of the main people to sign Texas’s Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. As Texas officially became its own state and a part of the U.S. in 1845, Navarro even went one step further by trying to ensure voting rights to the nonwhite people of Texas. Now a little after the annexation of Texas, the U.S obtained California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico after their victory against Mexico in the Mexican-American war. This didn’t end up contributing much to immigration because even though the population of immigrants was growing, looking at the bigger picture of migration shows us that it was more of a shift occurring from north to south than it was into the previously mentioned lands.
The former Mexican citizens who lived in the south migrated back to Mexico and other regions around it which causes Mexican immigration levels into America to decrease for years and years until agricultural work in the U.S. grew in the late 1800s. In the book Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans by Alan Riding, he describes how the long history of immigration between Mexico and the United States as “involving so many ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors in both countries” and this was due the U.S. agriculture expanding in the 1880s and 1890s. You had the U.S. taking hold of many Mexican territories and taking it for themselves for years and pushing former Mexican citizens out in the process but then we see a turn with this agricultural growth pulling Mexicans back up north. This ultimately would continue into the 1900s gaining momentum from the Mexican Revolution and the U.S. entering World War I since many people were being sent off to go fight the agricultural jobs freed up (as well as some railroad jobs) and violence was pushing people out of Mexico in search of refuge. Once again referring to Alan Riding, he has stated that anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 Mexican immigrants crossed into the United States in the two decades leading up to the stock market crash that caused the Great Depression (1929–1941). This wave of migrants was actually what led to the creation of the US Border Patrol in 1924 due to just how massive the amounts of people were that were coming over.
Going back to the topic of the Great Depression, this was THE event that would finally turn the tides on immigration flows. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans returned back home as jobs were becoming more and more scarce for everybody. But, history would go on to repeat itself as the need for work during World War II grew immensely. This resulted in the creation of the Bracero Program which was designed to create a legal agreement between Mexican migrants looking for work (paid) and the U.S., which ended up allowing for 4.6 million migrants to receive temporary work permits. We all know that our country’s promises don’t always come through, and this is exactly what happened with the Bracero Program. Despite the agreement’s promises to regulate payment and treatment of migrant workers, the 22 years of the Bracero Program were filled with mistreatment such as abuse and the exploitation of Mexican workers. Did the program provide a legal way to come work for the U.S.? Yes, yet many Mexican citizens still came north without any authorization. Furthermore, once the war was over the US government even began to focus on sending the migrant workers back home. More than 1 million Mexican citizens (and sometimes even US citizens of Mexican origin) were sent back to Mexico under the deportation program called “Operation Wetback” in 1954. It wasn’t until 10 years later however did the Bracero Program finally be called to an end. Migrants still flowed considerably into the U.S. regardless that the program had ended.
In a 2012 article titled Unintended Consequences of US Immigration Policy the authors Douglas S. Massey and Karen A. Pren note how undocumented immigration began to rise after, and as an effect of, the termination of the Bracero Program. By this time U.S. industries, particularly agriculture, had grown accustomed to the reliance of Mexican migrants for cheap and easy labor. The links and bonds between the farmers and the laborers still existed as farmers were aware of how much their industry relied on labor from Mexico. The biggest turning point in this time after the Bracero Program was the passing of NAFTA (North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement). An almost immediate result of the treaty was a currency crisis in Mexico. This currency crisis as well as the ridding of tariffs on corn became just another one of the push factors that sent a new wave of undocumented Mexican immigrants to seek work north of the border. When NAFTA was passed, the undocumented immigrant population in the United States had already been increasing due to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which was a document that granted legal status to up to 2.7 million undocumented immigrants, having some people think that this encouraged further unauthorized immigration.
The relationship between our country and immigrants has never been that great, even in recent history it just seems to go downhill. Nowadays, we all know that a good portion of our immigrants are treated differently almost purely due to the reason that they weren’t born here, and this is of no thanks to our good old president.
The road to citizenship however is filled with many rest stops on the way that aid immigrants on their journey to becoming a citizen, though that doesn’t exactly make it easy.
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