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Mexicans In America During The Great Depression

1713 words - 7 pages

While many remember the Great Depression as a time of terrible trials for Americans, few understand the hardships faced by Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the U.S. This paper examines the experiences of Mexicans in America during the Great Depression and explores the devastating impact of repatriation efforts. America has an extensive history of accepting Mexican workers when they are needed for cheap labor, and demanding that they be deported when the economic situation is more precarious in an attempt to open jobs for Americans. In the 1930s, “Americans, reeling from the economic disorientation of the depression, sought a convenient scapegoat. They found it in the Mexican community.” Mexicans were blamed for economic hardships and pushed to leave the United States because Americans believed they were taking jobs and draining charitable resources; however, few understood the negative repercussions of these actions. During the Great Depression, the push to strip jobs from Mexicans and repatriate them had the unintended consequences of adding more people to welfare rolls, contributed to labor shortages and forced out legal citizens of Mexican descent which created feelings of bitterness and rejection.
The drive to keep jobs out of the hands of Mexicans had the highly undesirable result of forcing many families to depend on welfare to survive. Many Mexicans were forced to leave and rounded up by immigration officials, while others were intimidated by immigration practices and left voluntarily. While some left willingly because of the poor economic outlook, hoping things would be better in Mexico, others were deported even if they had come to the United States legally. One reporter called for an investigation of immigration officers, claiming that they “created the impression among them that a drive is on against all Mexicans.” These efforts to push Mexicans out of the United States were based on the idea that “Many Americans sincerely believed that getting rid of Mexicans would create a host of new jobs.” This belief likely stemmed from desperation as families struggled with massive unemployment, as well as ethnocentrism which permeated the United States. However, it failed to take into account what would become of the Mexican workers who were removed from their jobs. Mr. Doak, the Secretary of Labor, confirmed the necessity of this method of job creation as he claimed “more than 1100 aliens have been deported from New York City alone since the middle of January. More than half of these deportations created jobs for unemployed Americans.” While sending Mexicans back to their country opened up jobs for Americans, it also meant that Mexicans could no longer support themselves and their families. In 1933 in Los Angeles County, 12,600 Mexican families were on welfare. Often heads of households were deported leaving family members behind. Some Americans questioned the true cost savings of deporting Mexicans, and “One study...

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