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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

No more “Bracero Program,” no more manipulation of immigrants ─ Yolanda Alaniz

Time to end 
decades’-old, shameful 
Use-abuse-discard tactics
Editing, re-reporting by 
Carolyn Bennett 
Unconditional and immediate amnesty! Stop the deportations and ICE raids! No Bracero Program! Union wages for all! Workers given the freedom corporations have — open the borders!─ Yolanda Alaniz
Bracero Program
In Spanish the term is “bracero” means “manual laborer”: “one who works using his arms.”  

he Bracero Program of agreements, acts and nods between U.S. government officials and Mexico and growers and Mexico brought thousands of “temporary” workers from Mexico into the United States in the 1940s through the 1960s.

Discarded in Depression

In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, in a Mexican Repatriation action, more than 500,000 Mexican Americans were deported or pressured into leaving the United States.

When a demand for labor returned with World War II, “there were fewer Mexican Americans available.”

Embraced in war, expediency 
U.S. and Mexican presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Manuel Ávila Camacho in 1942 ─ “prompted by a demand for manual labor during World War II” ─ entered into agreements as part of the “Allies” in World War II. The Bracero Program was born.

The initial program agreements expired in 1947. But under a variety of laws and administrative agreements, the Bracero Program of temporary Mexican workers in the United States continued in agriculture until formally terminated in 1964.

In the period of the Bracero Program, the U.S. government brought a few hundred experienced Mexican agricultural laborers to harvest sugar beets in the Stockton, California area; followed by widespread use of Mexican workers who provided agricultural labor across the United States.

Texas initially opted out of the program, preferring an ‘open border’ policy. Until 1947, the Mexican government denied braceros to the State of Texas because of ‘perceived mistreatment’ of Mexican laborers.

U.S. Agricultural Laborers (Bracero) Program
Government-Corporate collusion 1940s-1960s

U.S. growers claiming ongoing U.S. labor shortages lobbied successfully for a number of congressional acts that extended the Bracero Program until 1948; and between 1948 and 1951, under administrative agreements negotiated by growers and the Mexican government, importation of Mexican agricultural laborers continued.

U.S. President Harry S. Truman on July 13, 1951, signed Public Law 78, a two-year program embodying formalized “protections” for Mexican laborers. This program was renewed every two years until 1963 when, under heavy criticism, it was extended for a single year ─ with the understanding it would not be renewed.

Nevertheless, despite the 1964 formal ending of the agricultural temporary worker program, agreements still covered smaller numbers of program contracts until 1967.

U.S. Railroad Laborers (Bracero) Program
This program’s official ending 1945 with ending of World War II

Together with the agricultural program was the railroad bracero program. It was “independently” negotiated to supply U.S. railroads ─ first with “unskilled” then with “skilled” workers for railroad track maintenance.

Quotas for the agricultural program working in the U.S. railroad system and working in the U.S. agriculture program were, by 1945, 75,000 and 50,000 braceros, respectively

n the current issue of Freedom Socialist Voice of Revolutionary Feminism, Yolanda Alaniz has penned “Obama’s cruel immigration hoax.”

U.S. President Barack Obama’s game plan is set, she writes. “Comprehensive immigration reform proposals generally have three main components:

Cracking down on what’s defined as illegal immigration;
Offering the hope of legal status for immigrants currently without papers; and
Enlarging guest worker programs 

ost sane people would agree that to use, abuse and discard workers is reprehensible. But Alaniz suggests this is not only what is happening to contemporary immigrants; but that it is happening as replay of the old 1940s-60s U.S. government-corporate Bracero story.

Alaniz recalls that the U.S. temporary-worker Bracero Program ─ described by a former Department of Labor officer as “‘legalized slavery’ ─ ended after decades of laborers [had been] underpaid, overworked, harassed, and poorly housed.”

From the time of the earlier program “to the dangerous cleanup after [2005’s] Hurricane Katrina,” she writes, “guest worker programs typically lure immigrants forced by desperate life-or-death situations to take temporary, low-paid work, exempt from normal labor protections. And tied to one employer, workers must keep a job to keep their work visa; so bosses can control these workers with the threat of deportation if they ─

Attempt to organize a union,
Demand standard wages and decent conditions, or
Report abuse or sexual assault
“Their super-exploitation,” she says, “lowers pay and conditions for all workers.”

Cruel government hoax

The Obama government’s cruel “immigration reform” hoax, Alaniz says, is rooted, on the one hand, in making sure “business can keep maximizing profits”; and on the other, maintaining the Party’s majority hold on the Latino vote.  

he “misnamed ‘path to citizenship’ is the carrot to attract popular support for Obama’s wretched plan,” she says, but the path is strewn with daunting obstacles: ‘rigorous security check,’ a series of fines, competency in English, payment of back taxes…[together with increasing border “fences, drones, agents, cameras, and radar].”

And “after all this, undocumented immigrants would still have to wait until the current backlog for green cards (the first step toward citizenship) disappears,” which means that “immigrants in some categories could wait 20 years!” she says.
“When it comes to guest worker programs, [the Obama administration] is playing it coy”: claiming to support agribusinesses’ need for workers while failing to “spell out what this means.” Yet the president’s eye is on competitiveness “with capitalists abroad” so he is clearly more vested in easing the way for “highly skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers to remain in the United States.”

Yolanda Alaniz concludes with a personal call to action. “As a former farm worker who lived in the worst labor camps possible,” she declares: “I look forward to the revival of the militant movement — to once again see rank-and-file immigrant women leading a million strong down the streets, demanding what immigrants really need and what the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women have always called for:

Unconditional and immediate amnesty!

Stop the deportations and ICE raids!

No Bracero Program!

Union wages for all!

Workers given the freedom that corporations have — 
open the borders!

Sources and notes

“Obama’s cruel immigration hoax” (by Yolanda Alaniz), Freedom Socialist: Voice of Revolutionary Feminism, April-May 2013Volume 34, No. 2, in Spanish at http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/2131

Yolanda Alaniz 

Yolanda Alaniz is a feminist, activist, politician and writer.  She is author of iViva la Raza!: Chicano Identity and Resistance (Red Letter Press); coauthor (with Megan Cornish) of Viva la Raza: A History of Chicano; coeditor (with Nellie Wong) of Voices of Color: an anthology of writings by radicals of color; and serves on the Editorial Board of the Freedom Socialist newspaper coordinating the Voices of Color column.

She took her academic credentials at the University of California (MLIS, Los Angeles) and the University of Washington (BA, Journalism), the latter where became an influential member in Chicana/o rights organizations like MEChA, Brown Berets, and Las Chicanas. Yolanda Alaniz was born in Brownsville, Texas (1950), and raised in Sunnyside, Washington (Yakima Valley) where she and her family worked as farm workers.

Wikipedia note: Bracero Program, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bracero_Program


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