I’ve been following the recent news about the so-called “Dreamer” program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative that President Obama created by executive order late in his administration, and the actions the Trump administration are taking to undo the program. As such, I ran across an item that suggests this is not the first time the subject of children staying in this country has come up.
It happened in another era when we were worried about the health of our economy — the Great Depression. An initiative was begun to send Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans living in the United States south under the pretext of repatriation to preserve American jobs. But who was an American? “About 60 percent [of those shipped to Mexico] were American citizens,’’ says Francisco Balderrama, professor of American history and Chicano studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and co-author of Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s. “It became a hunt for anyone who was Mexican.’’ While there were public raids on Mexican neighborhoods and lots of action by local governments, “90 percent of it was a private sector effort,” Balderrama says. Private firms often offered their Mexican-American employees train tickets to the border.
The expulsions began under the administration of Herbert Hoover, but didn’t stop when Franklin D. Roosevelt became president. Since there was no act of Congress or official order, the expulsions didn’t register with the public. It was World War II before the effort faded away. Today, Mexican families researching their histories are surprised to learn that not only were their ancestors officially deported, but that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had little to do with expulsions.
And the language today is very much the same.
For more information, including the story of one family, read “When the U.S. Pushed Nearly a Million Mexicans Back Across the Border” by Katherine