Help Wanted- Get Out
Reporter/Producer: Joy Díaz | Photographer: Gabriel Cristóver Pérez | Researcher: Lucía Benavides
Web Editors: Wells Dunbar, Shelly Brisbin | Logo Design: Ashley Siebels
Funded with the generous support of The International Women’s Media Foundation
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Donald Trump said at the kickoff of his presidential campaign in 2015. “They’re bringing drugs,” he said. “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” allowing that “some, I assume, are good people.”
But at one time, workers from Mexico were called “absolutely essential to the survival” of some U.S. industries – and brought into the country by the millions, with the approval of the federal government.
While immigrant workers have become inextricably linked to the story of the United States, our story begins in 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order establishing the “Emergency Farm Labor Supply Program.” It included a guest-worker agreement between Mexico and the U.S. that came to be known as the “bracero” program – because people worked with their brazos, or arms.
While the second World War raged, many countries – including the United States – struggled to meet the demands of the machinery of war, and fill the labor vacuum left by men sent to the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. Labor was in such short supply that women left their homes and office buildings, and picked up rivet guns and worked in factories.
But the fields were left vacant.
The Women’s Army of America, which was modeled after a British program, recruited about 3.5 million women to work in agriculture. But it wasn’t enough.
It was this need for agricultural workers that prompted the U.S. and Mexico to create the bracero agreement
“U.S. businesspeople were very specific about their needs because they wanted to protect the jobs of U.S. workers,” says Enrique Armas Arévalos, a professor at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo.
The U.S. government offered braceros the same wages it would pay American workers. Workers were also offered paid transportation to and from the their hometowns, and access to health care and retirement accounts that would be distributed through Mexican banks.
Almost 5 million Mexican workers signed up. My late grandfather was one of them.
HELP WANTED, GET OUT
Reporter/Producer: Joy Díaz
Photographer: Gabriel Cristóver Pérez Researcher: Lucía Benavides
Web Editors: Wells Dunbar, Shelly Brisbin
Logo Design: Ashley Siebels
Additional Photo Credits:
File photo of braceros workers, courtesy of Humanities Tennessee
Photo of Texas State University in San Marcos courtesy of Flickr user Rain0975, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Photo of figure in silhouette, Jon Shapley for KUT News
Photo of trucks in impound lot, Mose Buchele/KUT News
Photo of mobile home lot, Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT News
“Help Wanted, Get Out” was funded with the generous support of The International Women’s Media Foundation.