Large-scale emigration from central Mexico to the United States began in the 1920s. Mexico was exempted from the system of quotas created by the Immigration Act of 1924, with U.S. politicians hoping to dissuade the revolutionary government from carrying out the nationalization the nation's oil reserves decreed in the 1917 Constitution of Mexico. In 1926, the anti-clerical policies of Plutarco Elías Calles led to a rebellion by Catholic ranchers and peasants in Jalisco and Michoacán, known as the Cristero War. The rebellion spread to thirteen states across the center of Mexico, with upwards of 50,000 people taking up arms to defend the Catholic Church. Although they failed to capture any major cities, thefederal army was unable to defeat these mounted guerillas. Between 1926 and 1930, the Cristiada War claimed 70,000 lives, led to the internal migration of 200,000 people, as well as the external emigration (mostly to the U.S.) of over 450,000 people. 'The establishment of a major Mexican presence in California dates back to these years.'  Mexicans met the increasing demand for cheap labor on the West Coast after draconian restrictions were imposed on Asian immigration. During this period, Mexicans began to migrate to areas outside the Southwest; they were imported to work in the steel mills of Chicago during a strike in 1919, and again in 1923. Many would find work on the assembly lines of automobile factories in Detroit, and in the meat-packing plants of Chicago and Kansas City.
During the Great Depression in the United States, the federal INS adopted a policy of repatriation; some 400,000 Mexican immigrants and their children were given one-way tickets home. Texas used Rangers to forcibly evict Mexicans who refused to accept voluntary repatriation, while Illinois, Indiana and Michigan paid for special trains to take Mexicans home.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted a "good neighbor" policy that sought better relations with Mexico. In 1935 a federal judge ruled that three Mexican immigrants were ineligible for citizenship because they were not white, as required by federal law. Mexico protested, and Roosevelt decided to circumvent the decision and make sure the federal government treated Hispanics as white. The State Department, the Census Bureau, the Labor Department, and other government agencies therefore made sure to uniformly classify people of Mexican descent as white. This policy encouraged the League of United Latin American Citizens in its quest to minimize discrimination by asserting whiteness. LULAC, with its middle class base aspiring to the American Dream, emphasized its loyalty to the United States, its commitment to individual achievement, and free-market capitalism.
World War II
World War II was a watershed for all the Latino groups. Enthusiasm for the war was high. Some 500,000 men were drafted or volunteered; even larger numbers of women and older men worked in high paying munitions plants, ending the hardship years of the depression and inspiring demands for upward mobility and political rights. The LULAC and El Congreso de Pueblos de…