The Bracero Program
Jose M. Padilla
Table of Contents
Economic Analysis 4
Tables and/or Figures 9
The Labor Importation Program (LIP) of 1942-1964 (better known as the "Bracero Program") was a carefully negotiated, bilateral labor agreement between the Mexican and U.S. governments. While the program was aimed at procuring badly needed laborers for U.S. farmers, it also intended to ensure the basic needs of temporary agricultural workers as dictated by Mexican law. This paper will present the case that Congress weakly enforced the law and ignored violations of the program ranging from violations of basic human rights to the influx of massive illegal immigration. In 1964, with the Bracero safety net out of the way, U.S. farmers could, as they do today, continue enjoying plentiful, willing, if illegal, workers at dramatically lower cost. (Tiedeman, 1999) Additionally, as the number of illegal workers equaled or surpassed the number of braceros; the number of migrate workers increased causing wages to decrease. Lastly, the Mexican government hoped the braceros would learn new agricultural skills increasing the human capital and ultimately increasing the productivity with skilled Mexican laborers and foresaw that the good wages in the United States would bring money back to Mexico and stimulate the Mexican economy.
The Bracero Program was a temporary contract labor program initiated in 1942 established through formal negotiations and an agreement between the United States and Mexico for the purpose of meeting U.S. food supply needs during World War II. The "Bracero" program lasted from 1942 to 1964. This was an important historical event that many Americans are unaware of today. A bracero (from braso, the Spanish word for arm) was a Mexican worker allowed entry into the United States for a limited time, usually to work on a farm. In 1942, facing an extreme shortage of farm labor workers due to the war, Congress (under the Emergency Labor Program) approved the temporary immigration of thousands of Mexican workers on a seasonal basis to replace the American men who were in the armed services. The Bracero Program was originally designed to bring experienced Mexican agricultural laborers to harvest sugar beets in Stockton, California, however after World War II the agricultural program continued until 1964.
The Bracero Program was designed to protect the illegal migrant workers against the exploitation by American farmers. The program was criticized and was viewed as a failure from the humanitarian point of view. Workers in the Bracero Program faced struggles with the United States and Mexican governments. There were elaborate contracts that covered wide-ranging contingencies regarding housing, wages, and labor conditions. The contracts included the withholding of 10 percent of workers' wages, which went to the government of Mexico to be given back to workers when they returned. (Meissner, 2004) However, laws were weakly enforced and violations of the program were ignored ranging from violations of basic human rights to the influx of massive illegal immigration. (Tiedeman, 1999)
The US government agreed to the conditions of the program, and 500 Braceros arrived in Stockton in September 1942 through an exception to immigration laws for "native-born residents of North America, South America, and Central America, and the islands adjacent thereto, desiring to perform agricultural labor in the United States." (Braceros: History, Compensation, 2006) However, the program did not fulfill its promises to the laborers themselves. Instead of encouraging a mutually advantageous relationship, the LIP became a tool of exploitation that perpetuated decades of dependency, poverty and estrangement in the Mexican American community. Hispanic Americans now constitute the poorest