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Imagine that your future depended on you illegally migrating to the United States.  Once you migrated you did not belong anywhere, neither the United States nor Mexico claimed you.  This is the position many persons in Mexico faced as explained by Ana Raquel Minian, associate professor in history at Stanford University.

Ana Raquel Minian gave a talk at Las Positas College on Thursday, January 30 as part of the Global Studies Program. The talk was hosted by the Las Positas Global Studies Department professor Catherine Eagan, funded by the Las Positas College Foundation. The topic of the talk was Mexican migration between 1965 to 1986 and was well received by the 60 students and persons who attended.

Minian was born in Mexico City hence the interest in Mexican migration.  During her study of Mexican migration she looked at both sides of the border, interviewed 300 people and research the archives of both the US and Mexico.

In 1964 the Bracero Program was terminated.  The Bracero program allowed temporary employment of Mexicans in the United States.  The program lasted form 1942 until 1864, over 4.6 million contracts were signed in the Bracero Program.  When the Bracero program ended there was a large increase in undocumented Mexicans immigrating to the US.

Many of the undocumented Mexicans came from three states, Zacatecas, Guerrero and Michoacán.  Such a large number of men immigrated that in some towns over 1/3 the population immigrated. Minian explained that the overwhelming majority were men, women were discouraged to migrate due to sexual violence at the border. Men were encouraged by family, friends and the town to migrate so they could better their economic conditions.

An interesting fact is very few gay men migrated.  This was because gay men could find employment in Mexico when straight men could not.  This factor was the gay men had already lost their “manhood” and took jobs that were not considered manly such as waiter in restaurant that a straight man would not take.

The immigration was considered circular as the men would return home or at least send funds home and then return back to the United States.

The migration continued unabated until 1986 when the Immigration Reform and Control act was passed that increased funds for border security. The effectiveness of the Immigration reform was immediate, in 1965 55,000 Mexican immigrants were deported, in 1986 over 1.5 million.

Prior to the 1970’s the Mexican government support its people by providing basic necessities, however, in the 1970s the economic conditions required the government to reduce social services.  The Mexican Government was actually encouraging illegal immigration to the US as the government realized it could not support the number of citizens in Mexico. In 1979 Mexico attempted to negotiate with the United States to allow more Mexican immigration, the US failed to make an agreement.

However, at the same time period the United States was thought, by many of its citizens, that the undocumented immigrants were a drain on the welfare system of the United States.  Even Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) testified on the Senate floor stating “in many cases, these illegal entrants and their families soon become a welfare burden on our society”. This is incorrect as the undocumented immigrants were not eligible to receive welfare benefit.

The Mexicans in the US formed social clubs.  Funds raised by the social clubs were sent back to Mexico, not to relatives but to the towns the immigrants came from.  These funds were used to better the services in the Mexican towns such as building a medical clinic, providing electricity and potable water.

In 1986 the State government of Zacatecas matched the funds sent back to the towns, this program has increased to all of Mexico with a three for one match, a dollar from the Federal Government, a dollar from the state government and a dollar from the local government in all of Mexico.

Minian has written a book on the unauthorized migration from Mexico to the United States, Undocumented Lives, the Untold Story of Mexican Migration. She mentioned the book several times during her talk but never did a hard sell or even had copies for sale.

The talk was very interesting as it discussed many aspects of Mexican immigration that most did not know. Many students at LPC are of Mexican heritage so the subject was appropriate and applicable to Las Positas College.


Alan Lewis is the photo editor of The Express. Follow him @alolewis1.

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