The decades long U.S. – Mexico border fight – from Bracero to American

Illegal immigration under President Trump is decreasing. Politicians act like controlling our Southern border is a new challenge and that Mexican's coming into the U.S. have long created a political and global problem.

Patrol El Paso District 1948 - Image courtesy of U.S. Border Patrol Museum

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2017 – The battle between Mexico and the United States over illegal immigrants is one that is decades long.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday the number of people illegally crossing the U.S. southern border during President Trump’s first month in office has dropped 40 percent. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reports the number of illegal border crossings dropped from 31,578 to 18,762 persons versus a 10-20 percent increase in illegal immigrant apprehensions normal for the period of January to February.

Going back to 1942, the World War II era braceros program was a series of laws, created with input from Mexico, that allowed Mexicans to won on American farms.

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) commission Argyle Mackey complained in 1954 of “the human tide of ‘wetbacks’, a disparaging term applied to illegal entrants who had supposedly sneaked into the U.S. by swimming the Rio Grande, as the “most serious enforcement problem of the Service.”

By Dorothea Lange, working for the US Government. –, Oakland Museum of California, Public Domain,

Post World War II the ‘braceros’ program allowed American agriculture to legally hire labor from Mexico under short-term contracts in exchange for stricter border security and the return of illegal Mexican immigrants to Mexico.

Of the the braceros program Mackey wrote that for “every agricultural laborer admitted legally, four aliens were apprehended.” Many who were denied entry as a bracero crossed illegally into the United States in search of better wages and opportunity.

The Operation Wetback immigration law of 1954 was created by Joseph Swing, the Director of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and developed in cooperation with the Mexican government. The program was implemented in May 1954 by U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownel implemented the program and greenlighted tactics to deal with illegal border crossings into the United States by Mexican nationals.

Unlike now, the mainstream media was supportive of securing the border, and stemming the tide of illegal immigration, the Los Angeles times reporting about the INS and border patrol “squads swooping down in surprise visits to farms, industrial plants, businesses, and factories.”

A growing agricultural industry in the United States created a demand for the cheap labor that could be found on the other side of the Southern border. Beginning in the 1920s, Mexicans were a primary labor source for much of the agricultural industry in the United States recording that in 1929 approximately 62,000 workers entered the United States legally, and over 100,000 illegally. In her book, Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol,” by Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Associate Professor, History and African-American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, the writer details that though heralded as a mass deportation plan, was a mass legalization campaign chased by an easing of immigration law enforcement in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

For further information, we turn to author Kelly Lytle Hernandez

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