Where Are Our Rights? The Repatriation of Mexican-American Citizens During the Great Depression

Where Are Our Rights? The Repatriation of Mexican-American Citizens During the Great Depression


[Silence] Hi, my name is Erin Lowe, and today I will
be presenting “Where are our rights? the Repatriation of Mexican-American
citizens during the Great Depression.” I have not been in this house since I was a child. I remember this. I had this
journal until I was almost 11 years old. I did not have a chance to bring it with
me when the men came, the last entry is when they were just outside. My family
was in the fields working, as always, and I was only 10 years of age, but I still
knew what the guns meant. Here is that entry
from 1931; “Dear diary: Hello, my name is Alicia Ramon, the year is 1931, and I
live in Los Angeles California. Another group of officers rounded up
some more people down the street. Including my elderly neighbors they were
deported from the country even though they’re both legal American citizens
just like me. They were told never to return because they looked Mexican and
the people rounding them up did not even bother to look at their papers proving
that they are legal American citizens. My
neighbors were not even allowed to bring their things with them or say goodbye to
the people they loved. The local
authorities called it Repatriation, you see America is in the depression
ever since the stock market crash in 1929 many of the white American citizens
believe that Mexicans are to blame for them not being able to find jobs. I’m not
sure how that’s fair. We are scapegoats–the people blamed when there is no one else to blame. The Whites didn’t want our jobs before this depression. You see,
we’re mostly second-class citizens working as maids, construction workers, or
on farms for other people during the 20s many of us with Mexican ancestry were
invited to come to the U.S. to work jobs because our labor was cheap, that’s how
my parents came to the U.S. and everything was okay for a while. For much
legislation and many resolutions were recently introduced the officials
recognized their responsibility to protect their citizens in 1930 Los
Angeles County Supervisor John R. Quinn proposed a legislation that would rid
the U.S. of illegal immigrants to secure the jobs of us born citizens. Then in
January of 1931 a resolution was introduced in the Kansas Senate
petitioning Congress to act in preventing un-naturalized Mexicans from
obtaining places of employment which should otherwise be given to citizens of
the United States. Then other states
started to develop similar legislation and it has become common for people to
just assume that all people of Mexican ancestry are here illegally. But the
majority of us are here legally as until recently it was fairly easy to cross the
border into the U.S. because you only have to give minor information about
yourself and pay a nickel in order to receive a visa in past years the border
really was just lying in the dirt. You
see, Congress did not impose the $8 head tax or require Mexican nationals to pass
a literacy test until 1917 with until 1924 citizens from both sides of the border
went both directions. Now I never crossed
the border because I was born here in the US but I know the people rounding
us up won’t care. They march into our
fields and home and force us out probably at gunpoint like the others and
then we’ll get onto those big trains crammed with people until we’re so far
over the border that it’s unlikely we will ever return. My parents told me that if the men came
to our door I should run, but I didn’t understand, there are soldiers entering
the fields right now and I know I should run but my family’s out there and
something tells me that my parents get taken away they won’t come back for a
long time. No, I’m going to run but not
away from my family I don’t want to be alone. Get me the Secretary of Labor. Hello, William Doak, Hoover here. What am I
going to do? Thousands are out of work, and thousands
more are impoverished, there are a few even low-paying jobs available. I’ve
attempted a number of reforms but almost none have been successful the citizens
and the labor unions are lending me but I did not cause this depression. They
think it’s my responsibility to carry them out of the depression heads high,
but how? Maybe they’re right
it is my responsibility, but what now? You
have to get them off my back, yes good, no, I already tried that. No direct aid, they
can’t become reliant on it. Yes, I
understand that the government has a responsibility to citizens and yes
Americans have rights to jobs that are rightfully theirs, but thousands of War
veterans are still waiting just outside to claim bonuses that were promised them
and we cannot afford that at the moment. I already signed that Smoot-Hawley
Tariff Act you know raising the rate on imports wasn’t enough. I agree with you that removing aliens
will reduce expenditures and free jobs for true Americans, but I am trusting you
to do what is necessary provide assistance to local authorities. Yes that
too. I’m just trying to help my citizens
honestly I don’t know what else to do American jobs for real Americans. With
the power of the US Department of Labor Hoover’s endorsement and federal
assistance local authorities Repatriation efforts began in earnest
more than 60% of the Mexicans deported are legal US citizens that’s more than
1 million legal citizens being deported between 1929 and 1944. Now throughout
history many people have been blamed for problems that they did not cause, ethnic
discrimination has been a huge problem throughout American history, and are not
commonly found in textbooks. Americans
today need to learn about this tragic events so that we don’t repeat it
it’s our responsibility to teach them. Now in 2006 the state of California gave
a formal apology. Senator Joseph Dunn was
the author and sponsor of the apology act for the 1930s Mexican repatriation
program informally acknowledged that almost 2 million Mexicans that were
deported and apologized to the 1.2 million of those that will legal US
citizens. But some of my people still ask
themselves are, “Did any of those non-Hispanic citizens stop and realize what they
were doing to us?” My family was split up
and I never saw my sister again, we were taken to a place without food shelter
electricity fresh water or good education. Repatriation did not even
apply to us since Mexico was not our country of origin, but it took years to come
back, for those of us who could come back. Did any of those government officials
notice they were not only violating the Fourth Amendment but that they were deporting
thousands of legal American citizens many, who were born and raised in America
as well. What happened to our
constitutional rights a right to a fair trial? Our right to work? Our right to
live in America legally? Due process? What
happened to the government’s responsibility to protect and defend us
citizens? Many government officials did
not encourage the movement per se but instead turned the other direction so to
speak. The repatriation of Mexican American
citizens during the Great Depression was one of the most tragic events in
American history. Have people forgotten
that America’s once created as a melting pot, and hating residents from all over
the world? Of course we need jobs and a
stable economy, but sometimes there is no one else to blame sometimes we must work
together instead of blaming each other. We are still America we must accept our
responsibility as American citizens and show empathy compassion and acceptance
towards others in order to prevent disasters like this happening again in
the future. Now I believe that we can do this, but you
need to as well. “Si se puede.” It can be
done. Thank you
[Applause]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *