Thursday, August 11, 2005

Victor D Hanson and "Guest Workers"

Incisive comments from a historian who LIVED some history:

Growing up in the rural San Joaquin Valley in California in the early 1960s, I remember hardworking, but not happy, braceros. No one considered them "guests" at all, but rather more like helots — a permanent class of serfs in the fields that the public neglected, the employer exploited and other workers resented.

To ensure that braceros went back home to Mexico after harvest, portions of their paychecks were often deposited with the Mexican government. Today thousands of aged and disabled farm workers are still in court trying to reclaim those stolen wages.

In fact, almost every bad immigration stereotype we have today of both Mexico and the United States — corrupt Mexican officials, hard-nosed American contractors, labor camps and exploited workers — crystallized during the bracero era.

Contrary to current popular mythology, most braceros, like most illegal aliens today, never wanted to go back to Mexico after living most of the year in the United States.

But revisit newspapers of the time. The constant theme can be summed up as something like "good enough to work for us, not good enough to live among us." Another constant, still with us today, was that cheap labor from Mexico — at first braceros, later illegal aliens — made it almost impossible for American farm workers to see their own wages rise much.
Aside from the moral considerations...

Hanson refers to the pre-1964 'guest worker' program which JFK shut down. Of course, he refers to the guest workers by the proper name: Helots.

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