"By the start of the twentieth century, Mexico and the United States were worlds apart in their economic and social well-being, although they shared a border nearly 2000 miles in length. Torn by economic and political strife, Mexico struggled to survive as the government repeatedly changed hands from one dictator to another. The numerous revolutions, the economic and social upheaval, coupled with the need for laborers in the United States, became powerful incentives for migrating north. For many, the United States became a beacon of economic and/or social opportunity. For others, it offered refuge from oppression and turmoil. In many instances it was a means to gain both.
Like most immigrants from other countries, the majority of Mexicans who came to the United States were laborers. They contributed by their productivity and as consumers and tax payers. When they became financially stable many established businesses ranging from theaters to food markets and formed mutual aid societies and social clubs in their neighborhoods."
"As the prosperity of the 1920’s gave way to the economic deterioration of the 1930’s, the entire nation was greatly affected and most especially Mexican-Americans. They were forced to compete with White-Americans for jobs not only in urban areas but in rural settings as well. During the lowest point of the depression, they were unable to find work even in agriculture and factories due to falling prices and the large number of unemployed White-Americans seeking jobs.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s federal relief programs, although providing some assistance to Mexican-Americans, were overall less helpful to them than to the rest of the nation’s poor. The reasons ranged from Mexican-American pride and reluctance to seek public assistance, to their inability to meet state residency regulations as a result of their migrant status.
Conditions during the depression fueled racial hatred to an all-time high. Anti-Mexican feelings were prevalent and expressed blatantly throughout the Southwest(especially in Texas) by various means, including signs stating, “No Mexicans or Dogs Allowed.” In reaction to the continuing economic crisis, the government became increasingly desperate, culminating in an action that equals, if not surpasses, the infamy of the Japanese-American relocation during World War II. Between one-half to one million Mexicans and American citizens of Mexican descent were deported. Approximately 60% were U.S. citizens. The event took place with little regard for human rights and without due process. In some instances government officials did not bother to differentiate between Mexican nationals and Mexican-American citizens. In other instances, Mexican parents with American born children chose to take them rather than sever the family. Herbert Hoover, who had previously enticed Mexicans to the United States, sat in the Oval Office during the early 1930’s and encouraged their removal."
"Here I stand, poor in money, arrogant with pride,
bold with machismo, rich in courage
and wealthy in spirit and faith."
Diminishing Numbers In the 21st Century
According to the 2008 American Community Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 38 million foreign-born persons residing in the United States from various countries. Although in absolute numbers this represents the highest figure ever, it amounts to only 12.5 percent of the population compared to nearly 15 percent between 1870 to 1920. The impact of immigration on the labor market during the early part of the twentieth century was much greater than it is at the present time. In order for the labor market to be similarly impacted today, immigration would have to increase dramatically!
Rather than increasing, however, the current number of immigrants to the United States from Mexico is diminishing noticeably according to a survey completed in 2009 by the Pew Hispanic Center. This finding is reinforced by U.S. Border Patrol data showing markedly reduced apprehensions of Mexicans trying to cross into the United States without proper documentation. Surveys conducted in Mexico also attest to recent substantial decreases in the number of their citizens coming to the U.S. In fact, survey data from both countries reveal a large flow of immigrants back to Mexico in recent years. Several factors have created that phenomena including the weakened U.S. economy, anti-immigration attitudes and the current laws being enacted that target immigrants without legal documentation.
Migration From and To Mexico
Source: Mexican Nation Survey of Occupation and Employment, 2006-2009
Figures reported are from February to February
Pew Hispanic Center (www.pewhispanic.org)