First Draft

Historian’s Blog 7: First Draft

The Bracero Program & The Rise of Illegal Immigration

The United States caused its own problem of illegal immigration by exploiting migrant workers, cutting off channels of legal migration, like the Bracero Program, and militarizing the border.  By acknowledging the faults of the U.S. in creating the problem, it is possible to attack the root causes of the problem rather than attack the effects.

As the U.S. went to war in 1941, there was a growing demand for a labor force in the United States to maintain agricultural production while soldiers were overseas.  One of the main areas affected by the shortage of workers was in the southwester portion of the U.S., California in particular.  With California and other southwestern states being so close to the Mexican border, agricultural employers turned to a migrant labor force as the ideal solution, which came in the form of the Bracero Program.  The term bracero “comes from the Spanish word brazos, meaning ‘arms’ or ‘helping arms’” and will be used to refer to a migrant laborer from Mexico.[1]  The Bracero Program allowed Mexican laborers to temporarily migrate to the United States in order to work on a seasonal basis and then return to Mexico once the working season was over.  As soldiers returned home from World War II, there were less jobs available in agriculture and American laborers struggled to compete with migrant workers because employers could pay migrant workers less than American workers.  While this competition would lead to some anti-Immigrant sentiment, it mostly led to anti-Bracero sentiments.  This growing disapproval of the Bracero Program would lead to the program’s eventual end, but the effects of the program would reach far beyond when it was ended.

Historians like J. Craig Jenkins argue that economic factors in Mexico are what pushed Mexicans to cross in to the United States.  While Jenkins acknowledges that there are aspects of the United States economy that attract Mexican workers to the U.S., he argues that these are far less influential in the decision making process.  According to Jenkins’ article, “Push/Pull in Recent Mexican Migration to the U.S.,” Mexican workers are being pushed out of Mexico due to a combination of population growth and a decline in available land and agricultural jobs.[2]  While the fertility rate in Mexico has not changed dramatically, the mortality rate decreased significantly, which means that while there may not be more babies being born, the population is steadily growing as a result of declining infant deaths.[3]  An ever-increasing population requires an ever-increasing job market, but due to the fact that there was no increase in available, there was little to no job growth, leading families to look for work elsewhere.  On top of that, many of the agricultural employers in Mexico were requiring fewer employees as a result of increases in efficiency.[4]  According to Jenkins, these economic factors in Mexico are the driving force behind Mexican workers’ decision to seek employment in the United States, but his analysis downplays the United States’ role in this migration.

On the other side, historians like Barbara Heisler emphasize the role the U.S. played in encouraging Mexican migration.  While in her article, “The Bracero Program and Mexican Migration to the United States,” Heisler acknowledges that the Bracero Program was a collaborative effort between Mexico and the United States, she points out that the problems associated with the program were a result of the U.S.’s utter disregard for the terms of the agreement.[5]  Government entities, like the INS and Border Patrol were supposed to work with Mexico to control the flow of migration but instead, these entities were turning a blind eye to illegal immigrants in order to supply cheap labor to employers.[6]  The violations by the United States deliberately encouraged Mexican migration to the U.S., especially illegal migration.  The encouragement to cross the border by the United States decreased the incentive for migrants to go the legal route of the Bracero Program because there was little to no risk.  The U.S.’s appetite for cheap labor and disregard for agreements made with Mexico ushered a wave of migration from Mexico.

These two opposing views of illegal immigration create different narratives by framing their arguments in a certain way.  Jenkins presents this influx of immigrants as an “alien invasion.”[7]  By framing this issue as an invasion, it automatically sets up a situation for the reader of “us” versus “them.”  Being that Jenkins’ target audience is the American citizen, he has already created a situation that forces the reader to view Mexican migrants negatively.  While Jenkins sets up the reader to view Mexican migration negatively, Heisler sets up her argument in a way that makes the reader sympathize with the migrant worker.  Heisler points out that this migratory pattern has been around for many years and the United States has been notorious for tricking and exploiting Mexican laborers.[8]  Framing the issue in this way puts the reader at ease because this is not a new phenomenon and even makes the reader feel sorry for migrant laborers because they are depicted as being exploited by the United States.

The Bracero Program was intended to fill labor shortages as a result of Word War II and do so in a way that would not damage the U.S. or Mexico.  The United States and Mexico came to agree upon the following list of stipulations:

  1. Braceros were exempt from serving in the military.
  2. Discrimination against Braceros is not allowed.
  3. The United States was required to pay for transportation of Braceros from Mexico and back, once their contracts expired.
  4. The United States was required to provide adequate housing for Braceros.
  5. Braceros were not to be used to lower wages or take jobs away from Americans.
  6. Braceros were only allowed to work in agriculture and must sign a labor contract.
  7. The United States agreed to pay wages equal to those of the area and no less than 30 cents per hour.
  8. Employers were required to employ Braceros a minimum of 75% of the length of their contract.
  9. Braceros were given the right to organize and later were represented by their own representatives.[9]

The stipulations agreed upon by both sides were intended to protect workers by making sure they were treated properly, paid adequately, and given appropriate living conditions.  Employers would also benefit through the promise of an adequate work force.  The U.S. economy and native laborers were protected by the assurance that Braceros would not drive down wages or displace native laborers.  These stipulations were good in theory, but U.S. employers rarely abided by them.  Cheap migrant labor was just too appealing to employers and exploitation prevented the system from working as it was intended.

U.S. employers ignored or failed to meet the standards set in the Bracero Program and exploited migrant workers for personal gain.  Living conditions for most Braceros were substandard with many of the camps lacking proper housing, facilities, and health and emergency services.[10]  Along with these poor living conditions, many Braceros received inadequate pay.  “Instead of paying ‘prevailing wages,’ or even the 30 cent minimum specified in the agreement, growers met at the beginning of each season to decide on the wages they were willing to pay and these often did not meet the required 30 cent minimum.”[11]  The agreed upon terms were set up to make sure that both sides were protected, but once Mexican workers crossed over into the United States, they were under control of employers who were only interested in generating profits.  The conditions that Braceros were subject to were similar to that of a concentration camp.  Despite the terrible conditions and low pay, migrants kept working, mostly out of fear.  If they refused to work, they would be deported and another worker would take their place.

The exploitation of migrant workers has negative effects on native laborers.  According to Robert Callagy in his letter, “Bracero System Opposed,” domestic workers are suffering because growers, “discriminate against American Citizens in favor of their captive force of foreign workers,” because Braceros “are used to depressed wages and working conditions.”[12]  When the U.S. made this agreement with Mexico, they set out to make sure that these two issues would not occur in order to protect the native agricultural labor force.  However, employers’ lack of respect for these agreements that set out to protect American workers had begun to hurt native laborers and they became disgruntled.  While they were angry at the effects of the migrant labor system, they were aware that Mexicans were being exploited, so they did not blame them.  The anger of Americans at the exploitation of Mexican laborers and the negative effects on the labor market led to the Bracero Program ending in 1964.

Cutting off routes of legal migration did not end the migration of workers; it merely forced them into illegal channels.  Before 1965, temporary workers were steady at around 450,000 entering the U.S. annually, but dropped to zero by 1968 and as the number of temporary workers dropped, the number of illegal immigrants apprehended per year rose from around 40,000 to 460,000.[13]  “The end of the Bracero Program corresponded exactly in time with the rise of illegal migration.”[14]  Over two decades, the Bracero Program had established a circular migration that would bring workers to the U.S. on a seasonal basis but they would return home once the working season was finished.  The abrupt end of the Bracero Program didn’t end these patterns because Mexican laborers still needed to make a living and employers still needed cheap seasonal labor.  While it appears that there was a massive increase in illegal immigrants following the end of the Bracero Program, these figures can be misleading.  The previously invisible circular migration of Mexican laborers was now very visible in the public eye and this was alarming to the U.S. public.

Fear of illegal immigration led to increasing efforts to protect the border.   “For any given number of undocumented entry attempts, more restrictive legislation and more stringent enforcement operations generate more apprehensions, which politicians and bureaucrats can then use to inflame public opinion, which leads to more conservatism and voter demands for even stricter laws and more enforcement operations, which generates more apprehensions, thus bringing the process full circle.”[15]  By framing the influx of illegal immigrants as a crisis and subsequent increase of border apprehensions as a threat to society, politicians were able to gain votes and increase funding to control the border, which in turn, continued to feed the threat narrative with more apprehensions.  This never-ending cycle is more about gaining support for conservatives than about the facts of illegal immigration.  While there have been more apprehensions at the border, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has continued to increase.  Increased Border Patrol is not deterring illegal immigrants from trying to cross but it is causing immigrants to think twice about returning to Mexico.

Increasing difficulty to cross the border has encouraged Mexican laborers to abandon circular migration for permanent settlement in the U.S.  “As the costs and risks of unauthorized border crossing mounted, migrants minimized them by shifting from a circular to a settled patter of migration, essentially hunkering down and staying once they had successfully run the gauntlet at the border.”[16]  With hopes of decreasing the number of illegal immigrants coming in to the United States, the U.S. beefed up border patrol and deportations.  However, these actions failed to deter immigrants and actually had the opposite affect by forcing illegal immigrants to give up circular migration and settle down due to the increased risk of crossing the border.  The actions taken by the United States to secure the border and stop illegal immigrants from crossing in to the U.S. have all been attempts to counteract the symptoms of a larger problem that will need to be addressed before real solutions can be found.

  1.  Conclusion


[1] Carl L. Bankston and Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo, Immigration in U.S. History, Magill’s Choice (Pasadena, Calif: Salem Press, 2006): 104.

[2] J. Craig Jenkins, “Push/Pull in Recent Mexican Migration to the U.S.,” International Migration Review 11, no. 2 (July 1, 1977): 186-187.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Barbara Schmitter Heisler, “The Bracero Program and Mexican Migration to the United States,” Journal of the West 47, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 68.

[6] Ibid.

[7] J. Craig Jenkins, “Push/Pull in Recent Mexican Migration to the U.S.,” International Migration Review 11, no. 2 (July 1, 1977): 178.

[8] Barbara Schmitter Heisler, “The Bracero Program and Mexican Migration to the United States,” Journal of the West 47, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 65-66.

[9] Bankston and Hidalgo, Immigration in U.S. History, 104–105.

[10] Heisler, “The Bracero Program and Mexican Migration to the United States,” 68.

[11] Ibid.

[12] West Oakland Farm Workers Association ROBERT J. CALLAGY, “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested,” New York Times (New York, N.Y., United States, December 15, 1964).

[13] Douglas S. Massey and Karen A. Pren, “Unintended Consequences of US Immigration Policy: Explaining the Post-1965 Surge from Latin America,” Population and Development Review 38, no. 1 (March 1, 2012): 4–5.

[14] Ibid., 5.

[15] Ibid., 9.

[16] Ibid., 17.

Project Map

Historian’s Blog 6: Project Map

  1. Introduction
    1. Thesis

i.     The United States caused its own problem of illegal immigration by exploiting migrant workers, cutting off channels of legal migration, like the Bracero Program, and militarizing the border.  By acknowledging the faults of the U.S. in creating the problem, it is possible to attack the root causes of the problem rather than attack the effects.

  1. Introduction Part 2
  2. Historical Context
  3. Historiography
    1. See Blog Assignment
  4. Body
    1. Body 1

i.     Statement

  1. The Bracero Program was intended to fill labor shortages as a result of Word War II and do so in a way that would not damage the U.S. or Mexico.

ii.     Evidence

  1. Terms of the agreement that were supposed to protect both sides.

iii.     Insight

  1. The stipulations agreed upon by both sides were intended to protect workers by making sure they were treated properly, paid adequately, and given appropriate living conditions.  Employers would also benefit through the promise of an adequate work force.  The U.S. economy and native laborers were protected by the assurance that Braceros would not drive down wages or displace native laborers.

iv.     Transition

  1. These stipulations were good in theory, but U.S. employers rarely abided by them.  Cheap migrant labor was just too appealing to employers and exploitation prevented the system from working as it was intended.
  2. Body 2

i.     Statement

  1. U.S. employers ignored or failed to meet the standards set in the Bracero Program and exploited migrant workers for personal gain.

ii.     Evidence

  1. Substandard living conditions.  Similar to shanty towns or ghettos (include photo)
  2. Employers ignored base wages.  They would get together and set their own wages.

iii.     Insight

  1. The agreed upon terms were set up to make sure that both sides were protected, but once Mexican workers crossed over into the United States, they were under control of employers who were only interested in generating profits.

iv.     Transition

  1. Despite the terrible conditions and low pay, migrants kept working, mostly out of fear.  If they refused to work, they would be deported and another worker would take their place.
  2. Body 3

i.     Statement

  1. The exploitation of migrant workers has negative effects on native laborers.

ii.     Evidence

  1. Agricultural wages go down (newspaper article)
  2. Native laborers cant compete with cheap labor

iii.     Insight

  1. When the U.S. made this agreement with Mexico, they set out to make sure that these two issues would not occur in order to protect the native agricultural labor force.  However, employers’ lack of respect for these agreements that set out to protect American workers had begun to hurt native laborers and they became disgruntled.  While they were angry at the effects of the migrant labor system, they were aware that Mexicans were being exploited, so they did not blame them.

iv.     Transition

  1. The anger of Americans at the exploitation of Mexican laborers and the negative effects on the labor market led to the Bracero Program ending in 1964.
  2. Body 4

i.     Statement

  1. Cutting off routes of legal migration did not end the migration of workers; it merely forced them into illegal channels.

ii.     Evidence

  1. Statistics show the sharp drop of Braceros is mirrored by a sharp increase of illegal immigrants
  2. Immigrants were still moving in circular migration

iii.     Insight

  1. Over two decades, the Bracero Program had established a circular migration that would bring workers to the U.S. on a seasonal basis but they would return home once the working season was finished.  The abrupt end of the Bracero Program didn’t end these patterns because Mexican laborers still needed to make a living and employers still needed cheap seasonal labor.

iv.     Transition

  1. While it appears that there was a massive increase in illegal immigrants following the end of the Bracero Program, these figures can be misleading.  The previously invisible circular migration of Mexican laborers was now very visible in the public eye and this was alarming to the U.S. public.
  2. Body 5

i.     Statement

  1. Fear of illegal immigration led to increasing efforts to protect the border.

ii.     Evidence

  1. Latino Threat Narrative
  2. Rise in illegal entry produces more border apprehensions

iii.     Insight

  1. By framing the influx of illegal immigrants and subsequent increase of border apprehensions as a threat to society, politicians were able to gain votes and increase funding to control the border, which in turn, continued to feed the threat narrative with more apprehensions.

iv.     Transition

  1. While there have been more apprehensions at the border, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has continued to increase.  Increased Border Patrol is not deterring illegal immigrants from trying to cross but it is causing immigrants to think twice about returning to Mexico.
  2. Body 6

i.     Statement

  1. Increasing difficulty to cross the border has encouraged Mexican laborers to abandon circular migration for permanent settlement in the U.S.

ii.     Evidence

  1. Migration in to the U.S. continues while out-migration falls dramatically (massey article)
  2. The costs and risks of crossing increased so illegal immigrants began settling down once they had crossed

iii.     Insight

  1. With hopes of decreasing the number of illegal immigrants coming in to the United States, the U.S. beefed up border patrol and deportations.  However, these actions failed to deter immigrants and actually had the opposite affect by forcing illegal immigrants to give up circular migration and settle down due to the increased risk of crossing the border.

iv.     Transition

  1. The actions taken by the United States to secure the border and stop illegal immigrants from crossing in to the U.S. have all been attempts to counteract the symptoms of a larger problem that will need to be addressed before real solutions can be found.
  2. Conclusion

Historiographical Essay

Historian’s Blog 5: Historiography Essay

            The massive increase of illegal immigration in the United States over the last 50 or so years has been a highly debated topic.  There are many different theories as to why this incredible uptick has occurred but most historians agree that the Bracero Program and its subsequent end played a pivotal role.  The historiography of mass Mexican migration to the United States, both legal and illegal, has been split between historians who focus on Mexico as the reason for the migration and those who focus on the role of the United States in the increase of illegal immigration.  Those concerned with Mexico’s role are mostly focused on the economic conditions that sent Mexicans over the border while those focusing on the United States’ role tend to concentrate on the United States’ dependence on and exploitation of migrant workers and both groups view this migration through a different lens.

Historians like J. Craig Jenkins argue that economic factors in Mexico are what pushed Mexicans to cross in to the United States.  While Jenkins acknowledges that there are aspects of the United States economy that attract Mexican workers to the U.S., he argues that these are far less influential in the decision making process.  According to Jenkins’ article, “Push/Pull in Recent Mexican Migration to the U.S.,” Mexican workers are being pushed out of Mexico due to a combination of population growth and a decline in available land and agricultural jobs.[1]  While the fertility rate in Mexico has not changed dramatically, the mortality rate decreased significantly, which means that while there may not be more babies being born, the population is steadily growing as a result of declining infant deaths.[2]  An ever-increasing population requires an ever-increasing job market, but due to the fact that there was no increase in available, there was little to no job growth, leading families to look for work elsewhere.  On top of that, many of the agricultural employers in Mexico were requiring fewer employees as a result of increases in efficiency.[3]  According to Jenkins, these economic factors in Mexico are the driving force behind Mexican workers’ decision to seek employment in the United States, but his analysis downplays the United States’ role in this migration.

On the other side, historians like Barbara Heisler emphasize the role the U.S. played in encouraging Mexican migration.  While in her article, “The Bracero Program and Mexican Migration to the United States,” Heisler acknowledges that the Bracero Program was a collaborative effort between Mexico and the United States, she points out that the problems associated with the program were a result of the U.S.’s utter disregard for the terms of the agreement.[4]  Government entities, like the INS and Border Patrol were supposed to work with Mexico to control the flow of migration but instead, these entities were turning a blind eye to illegal immigrants in order to supply cheap labor to employers.[5]  The violations by the United States deliberately encouraged Mexican migration to the U.S., especially illegal migration.  The encouragement to cross the border by the United States decreased the incentive for migrants to go the legal route of the Bracero Program because there was little to no risk.  The U.S.’s appetite for cheap labor and disregard for agreements made with Mexico ushered a wave of migration from Mexico.

These two opposing views of illegal immigration create different narratives by framing their arguments in a certain way.  Jenkins presents this influx of immigrants as an “alien invasion.”[6]  By framing this issue as an invasion, it automatically sets up a situation for the reader of “us” versus “them.”  Being that Jenkins’ target audience is the American citizen, he has already created a situation that forces the reader to view Mexican migrants negatively.  While Jenkins sets up the reader to view Mexican migration negatively, Heisler sets up her argument in a way that makes the reader sympathize with the migrant worker.  Heisler points out that this migratory pattern has been around for many years and the United States has been notorious for tricking and exploiting Mexican laborers.[7]  Framing the issue in this way puts the reader at ease because this is not a new phenomenon and even makes the reader feel sorry for migrant laborers because they are depicted as being exploited by the United States.

While it is true that there were economic forces that pushed Mexican laborers to seek employment across the border, I feel that this narrative attempts to place blame on Mexico and its economy while ignoring the complex role played by the United States in encouraging migration and subsequently exploiting migrant workers.

 

 

Bibliography

Heisler, Barbara Schmitter. “The Bracero Program and Mexican Migration to the United States.” Journal of the West 47, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 65–72.

Jenkins, J. Craig. “Push/Pull in Recent Mexican Migration to the U.S.” International Migration Review 11, no. 2 (July 1, 1977): 178–189.



[1] J. Craig Jenkins, “Push/Pull in Recent Mexican Migration to the U.S.,” International Migration Review 11, no. 2 (July 1, 1977): 186-187.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Barbara Schmitter Heisler, “The Bracero Program and Mexican Migration to the United States,” Journal of the West 47, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 68.

[5] Ibid.

[6] J. Craig Jenkins, “Push/Pull in Recent Mexican Migration to the U.S.,” International Migration Review 11, no. 2 (July 1, 1977): 178.

[7] Barbara Schmitter Heisler, “The Bracero Program and Mexican Migration to the United States,” Journal of the West 47, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 65-66.

Historian’s Blog 4: Primary Source Analysis Revision

Brenton Wolter

Professor Patterson

History 200

27 October 2014

Historian’s Blog 4: Primary Source Analysis Revision

            The competition and struggle between American and immigrant workers has been a hot button issue in the past 10 to 20 years, but this isn’t a new phenomenon.  Immigrant labor forces have been clashing with the American work force for almost as long as this country has been in existence, so it is no surprise that American workers found themselves in competition with Mexican immigrants in the years following World War II.  World War II left the United States with a shortage of workers, especially in agriculture related jobs, so the United States government came up with a way to fills these vacant positions and keep the country moving.  The government’s solution was to allow Mexican workers to come to the United States for seasonal employment and then return home between seasons.  These workers were called “Braceros,” which led to these laws to be referred to as Bracero Laws or the Bracero Program.  While these laws helped keep the country moving during WWII, they created unwanted competition between American and Mexican workers after the war ended.  The struggle to find jobs and the anti-immigrant sentiment that resulted from Americans’ struggles can be seen in a New York Times article by Robert Callagy, published in December of 1964, “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested.”  In his article, Callagy gives us great insight into the ideas and feelings of the times from someone who lived in it.  While he gives good insight, we must take his opinions with a grain of salt because he is prone to bias due to the fact that he is a member of the agricultural community, but this source is useful to research of this time period nonetheless.

The New York Times article entitled, “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested” was written by Robert Callagy on December 5th, 1964 and published December 19th of the same year.  Callagy was a resident of Oakland, California in 1964 and a member of the West Oakland Farm Workers Association.  This article was written in the form of a letter to the editor of the New York Times with the intention of not only addressing the editor, but the public as a whole.  By writing this letter to the New York Times, Callagy was hoping to reach the readers with information about the Bracero laws and how they are hurting this country’s agricultural workforce.  This suggests that Callagy was opposed to the Bracero laws and he was looking to persuade others into supporting his cause.  Callagy’s point of view is most likely swayed by the fact that he is an agricultural worker who has experienced hardships in relation to the Bracero laws.

Robert Callagy wrote this letter to the editor of the New York Times in order to present the negative effects of the Bracero laws on American agricultural workers and to gain opposition to the continuation of these laws.  This letter was written with the intention that it would reach fellow citizens so it is a public source rather than a private one, but the fact that it is a simple letter suggests that there was little thought or intention that it would become a historical document.  Because the author is trying to sway readers and gain support, this letter is based mostly on opinions rather than solid evidence and facts.  While Callagy does make claims regarding the Bracero laws and employers, they are rather vague, failing to state concrete figures, and he never supports his claims or cites his sources.  The abundance of claims against Bracero laws without facts or sources makes the reader believe that his position as a farmer has created a bias in his writing.  Lastly, this letter has very little numerical data and an abundance of opinions and claims, which makes this a qualitative source, rather than a quanitative.

Robert Callagy’s letter gives voice to those farmers who were hurt by the Bracero laws and serves a rallying cry against those laws, but his arguments lack support and therefore fall short of their goal.  Callagy can be seen as a very reliable source due to the fact that he lived in a community affected by these Bracero laws, Oakland, during the time of the event, so his letter to the New York Times serves as a first hand account or voice of the community.  Callagy could have made a much stronger argument but he focused on reaching readers on an emotional level with claims of discrimination and harassment against American citizens.  While letters tend to be a bit more informal, I feel that Callagy could’ve given a more accurate description of the effects of the Bracero laws and supported his claims at the same time.  Lastly, Callagy seems to be telling the truth as he sees it, even suggesting that the Bracero’s are their “brothers,”[1] but his bias as a farmer prevents him from telling the whole story, like the negative effects of ending the Bracero programs.

After examining this source, it appears to be reliable but opinionated.  Callagy is giving us a firsthand look at what goes on in California in the post-World War II era as far as agriculture goes, but this letter is filled with the authors opinions that have been swayed by his bias as a disgruntled farmer.  As you read the letter, it becomes a rallying cry or even propaganda urging citizens to stand up to “the man” aka the corporate farmers and makes me second guess how credible this account really is.  In order to substantiate the claims made by Callagy, more research would need to be done with other first hand accounts, examination of statistics on agricultural employment during that time period would be helpful, and reading of scholarly journals to see what other scholars came up with on the subject would be necessary.

 

 

Bibliography

ROBERT J. CALLAGY, West Oakland Farm Workers Association. “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested.” New York Times. New York, N.Y., United States, December 15, 1964.

 



[1] West Oakland Farm Workers Association ROBERT J. CALLAGY, “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested,” New York Times (New York, N.Y., United States, December 15, 1964).

Primary Source Analysis

Historian’s Blog 3: Primary Source Analysis

            How do you tell whether something is fact or fiction?  Essentially that is what we are doing when we analyze our sources.  We breakdown who wrote this, why they wrote it, and for whom, in order to give ourselves an idea of how credible this source is and whether or not we can trust what they say to back up our argument.  If we don’t separate fact from fiction, our image of history can be distorted and our arguments will ultimately be based on a less than solid foundation.  Some of the most important sources for understanding the past are primary sources and I will be analyzing one of mine in the following essay.  I will be analyzing the New York Times article, “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested,” written by Robert Callagy and published in December of 1964.

The New York Times article entitled, “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested” was written by Robert Callagy on December 5th, 1964 and published December 19th of the same year.  Callagy was a resident of Oakland, California in 1964 and a member of the West Oakland Farm Workers Association.  This article was written in the form of a letter to the editor of the New York Times with the intention of not only addressing the editor, but the public as a whole.  By writing this letter to the New York Times, Callagy was hoping to reach the readers with information about the Bracero laws and how they are hurting this countries agricultural workforce.  This suggests that Callagy was opposed to the Bracero laws and he was looking to persuade others into supporting his cause.  Callagy’s point of view is most likely swayed by the fact that he is an agricultural worker who has experienced hardships in relation to the Bracero laws.

Robert Callagy wrote this letter to the editor of the New York times in order to present the negative affects of the Bracero laws on American agricultural workers and to gain opposition to the continuation of these laws.  This letter was written with the intention that it would reach fellow citizens so it is a public source rather than a private one, but the fact that it is a simple letter suggests that there was little thought or intention that it would become a historical document.  Because the author is trying to sway readers and gain support, this letter is based mostly on opinions rather than solid evidence and facts.  While Callagy does make claims regarding the Bracero laws and employers, they are rather vague, failing to state concrete figures, and he never supports his claims or cites his sources.  The abundance of claims against Bracero laws without facts or sources makes the reader believe that his position as a farmer has created a bias in his writing.  Lastly, this letter has very little numerical data and an abundance of opinions and claims, which makes this a qualitative source, rather than a quanitative.

Robert Callagy’s letter gives voice to those farmers who were hurt by the Bracero laws and serves a rallying cry against those laws, but his arguments lack support and therefore fall short of their goal.  Callagy can be seen as a very reliable source due to the fact that he lived in a community affected by these Bracero laws, Oakland, during the time of the event, so his letter to the New York Times serves as a first hand account or voice of the community.  Callagy could have made a much stronger argument but he focused on reaching readers on an emotional level with claims of discrimination and harassment against American citizens.  While letters tend to be a bit more informal, I feel that Callagy could’ve given a more accurate description of the affects of the Bracero laws and supported his claims at the same time.  Lastly, Callagy seems to be telling the truth as he sees it, even suggesting that the Bracero’s are their “brothers,”[1] but his bias as a farmer prevents him from telling the whole story, like the negative affects of ending the Bracero programs.

After examining this source, I would say it is somewhat reliable.  Callagy is giving us a first hand look at what goes on in California in the post World War II era as far as agriculture goes, but this letter is filled with the authors opinions that have been swayed by his bias as a disgruntled farmer.  As you read the letter, it becomes a rallying cry or even propaganda urging citizens to stand up to “the man” aka the corporate farmers and makes me second guess how credible this account really is.  In order to substantiate the claims made by Callagy, I feel like I would need to read other first hand accounts, look in to statistics on agricultural employment during that time period, and scholarly journals to see what other scholars came up with on the subject.

 

 

Bibliography

ROBERT J. CALLAGY, West Oakland Farm Workers Association. “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested.” New York Times. New York, N.Y., United States, December 15, 1964.



[1] West Oakland Farm Workers Association ROBERT J. CALLAGY, “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested,” New York Times (New York, N.Y., United States, December 15, 1964).

Annotated Bibliography

Historian’s Blog 2: Annotated Bibliography

  1. How did the United States alter immigration from Mexico with the Bracero Program?
  2. The Bracero Program created a demand for affordable labor on both sides and allowed migrant workers to continue a circular migration during working seasons, but ending the program forced migrant workers to begin moving permanently into the US with their families, in order to avoid the risk of being caught crossing the border, which caused illegal immigration to increase dramatically.

 

 

Bibliography

Mitchell, Don. They Saved the Crops: Labor, Landscape, and the Struggle Over Industrial Farming in Bracero-Era California. Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation. Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press, 2012.

This monograph focuses on the Bracero Program in California and chronicles the many issues surrounding the program until it’s eventual end.  The author wants to tell the story of the program, but also wants to address the reason that it struggled and also share the struggles of the farmers and the migrant workers alike.  This source is helpful to give background information on the Bracero program and the time period.  It also gives a critical point of view of history that may conflict with the popular idea of migrant workers.

 

Bankston, Carl L., and Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo. Immigration in U.S. History. Magill’s Choice. Pasadena, Calif: Salem Press, 2006.

This book focuses on the history of immigration in the United States.  This book will be useful because it will provide a large amount of background information on many aspects of immigration that I am focusing on.

 

Anderson, Oliver C. Illegal Immigration: Causes, Methods, and Effects. Global Political Studies. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2010.

This book focuses on the issue of illegal immigration in the united states.  This book is very helpful because it provides some different types of information, like psychological analysis of immigrants, reasons for immigration, real stories of illegal immigrants, and many other aspects of an illegal immigrants life that can help prove my argument.

 

Anderson, Warren D. “Oral History and Migrant Wage Labor: Sources of Narrative Distortion.” Oral History Review 28, no. 2 (Summer/Fall  ///Summer/Fall2001 2001): 1-20.

This article analyzes the validity of oral history records.  It may be difficult to find a valid narrative of the life of a migrant worker because the narrator might not fully understand the migrant worker or the migrant workers may not trust them.

 

Krissman, Fred. “Sin Coyote Ni Patron: Why the ‘Migrant Network’ Fails to Explain International Migration.” International Migration Review 39, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 4–44.

This article brings to light the many factors that impact the flow of immigrants to the united states and argues against a “migrant network”.  This will give insight on the different factors that have affected immigration to the United States, including the demand for illegal workers by employers.

 

Sanchez, George J. “Race, Nation, and Culture in Recent Immigration Studies.” Journal of American Ethnic History 18, no. 4 (Summer 1999): 66-84.

This article focuses on how the growing number of immigrants from non-european generated a new way of thinking about race and immigration in the united states.

 

Reichert, Josh, and Douglas S. Massey. “History and Trends in U.S. Bound Migration from a Mexican Town.” International Migration Review 14, no. 4 (December 1, 1980): 475–491.

This article focuses on changes in immigration from Mexico to the United States and how they are tied to the changes in US immigration policy.  This article supports the idea that the US actually encouraged a shift from circular to permanent migration to the US.

 

Wells, Merle. “Twentieth-Century Migrant Farm Labor.” Journal of the West 25, no. 2 (April 1986): 65–72.

This article tells the history of migrant workers from Mexico during the 1900s.  This is great background information on the subject and the time period.

 

ROBERT J. CALLAGY, West Oakland Farm Workers Association. “Bracero System Opposed: New Law Permitting Importations to Continue Is Protested.” New York Times. New York, N.Y., United States, December 15, 1964.

This is an article opposing the Bracero program.  This gives historical context and helps me see what people were thinking in that time period.

 

Times, Special to The New York. “BRACERO STATUS CAUSES CONCERN: Coast Farmers Cite Losses If Mexican Labor Ends Machines Not Usable.” New York Times. New York, N.Y., United States, August 18, 1963. Accessed October 1, 2014. http://libproxy.uww.edu:4064/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/116298092/abstract/EED97083B11A409APQ/2?accountid=14791.

This article gives the opposing side of the argument during this time period and allows me to see how dependent the US was on the braceros.

Expository Essay Sample: What is History?

What is History?  There is a tendency to view history as a set of objective truths about the past that are unchanging, but this isn’t the case.  History is tricky because it can change drastically depending on who is recording it or where it is being recorded.  Different people and places can have differing views of the same event, so how do we know which history is the right history?  I argue that history is a theory of the past, which is constructed by thorough examination and interpretation of primary and secondary sources.  As new evidence and sources become available, history can be rewritten and reinterpreted, in order to understand where we came from and where we are going.

History is a narrative of the past that we construct by interpreting evidence.  “Although the public generally conceives of history as a nonfiction narrative largely devoid of interpretation, historical study requires interpretation.” (Galgano, 7)  In this passage, Galgano throws out the idea that there is one factual history and it is not open to interpretation.  Actually, it is quite the opposite, because Galgano argues that interpretation is required when it comes to researching history.

Our interpretation of the past relies on the evidence we have available to us.  “History is not a collection of facts about the past whose primary value is to improve one’s skills while playing trivia games; it is an interpretation of the past based on the weight of the available evidence.” (Galgano, 1)  In this passage, Galgano suggests that history is not about reading and memorizing accounts of events as truth, rather it is about taking in all the information and making your own interpretation and understanding of history.

Our view of history has the ability to change, as new evidence becomes available.  While history or our interpretation of it may appear to be correct and built on sound factual evidence, it can change with time as Thomas Kuhn pointed out.  “Kuhn demonstrated that, over time, scientists uncovered information that challenged important theories of how the universe worked, but the theory would hold with some qualifications until the weight of dissenting evidence forced a reinterpretation.  According to Kuhn, the truth was merely what appeared to be true relative to one’s point of observation based on the available evidence.” (Galgano, 10)  As this passage points out, we believe our ideas to be true on subjects, like science and history, because the available evidence tells us these ideas are true, however, as new evidence begins to arrive and apply pressure to our ideas, we are forced to rethink our beliefs and reinterpret.

While history may seem like it is set in stone, it is really just a theory.  As stated before, Historians create a theory or narrative of history by analyzing the available evidence and interpreting it for themselves, but this doesn’t mean these ideas are necessarily true.  These ideas may be true for any number of years, but they are only “true” because the available evidence suggests it and once more sources become available, ideas are very likely to change.