By Madison Brown
In the aftermath of the United States developing some of the most powerful border legislation in the late 19th century, immigration surges came from all sides of the country and carried people of all kinds. Most notably, however, migrants from Mexico seeking to live out the American Dream, while contributing to their communities, became America’s biggest point of exploitation.
On the cusp of World War One, there was an overwhelming need for labor in the United States, as many men were being sent out to fight while the women were given the responsibility of holding down the homes. This created a cause for these individuals to provide service in tedious and otherwise unwanted work in largely agricultural places. However, around the 1930’s, after the war efforts had begun to die down and society began to return to its natural state, deportations began to be issued for those that were once granted the ability to come over and work. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, an economic demand for workers opened up once again, and more labor agreements were made with Mexico under the Bracero Program in 1941. The program, according to the University of California Los Angeles Labor Center, had been designed to import millions of Mexican workers, which were mostly men, on agricultural work contracts for short periods of time. While this program was effective in providing the U.S. with labor that it needed, it simultaneously was separating families in Mexico. The United States was undoubtedly quick to end these programs after economic standings had become more coherent, and movements were stopped by any means possible. The most effective tool in further suppressing those that had just provided their work came in the form of derogatory language, and then deporting the millions individuals who had come to help, through “Operation Wetback” in 1954. What was supposed to come as a form of legislation turned into a witch hunt that left millions terrorized and only 225,000 deported according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
Efforts to reduce and revert the oppression towards immigrants has been successful in some aspects, as well with progressive ideas being introduced by members of the newly elected congress such as “permanent protection to Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the country as children, and TPS holders.” According to the vice president of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. Along with outspoken individuals, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the 116th Congress of the United States, the slow wheels of national reform have already began to turn as she plans to succeed in the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while allotting freedom to Mexican individuals seeking asylum and better opportunity on the basis of them being native to the lands. On a more cohesive level, the use of popular culture in aiding the end of decades of impartiality towards mexican immigrants has recently come from Alfonso Cuarón’s film entitled, “Roma,” which highlights the truths of Mexican life in the 1970’s under the heat of low paying work and odds stacked against those seeking better futures. Only shortly after its release, the film has received over twenty awards, while providing recognition to those within the film, such as the main character of the film played by Yalitza Aparicio, a mexican actress, as she has now been featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair. While “Roma” is only one film and has not yet even reached the peak of its lasting importance on the film and real world, the voice and representation that it has given Mexican workers is impressive to say the least.
On the other hand, overpopulation became a true problem for the United States, as the economic state of the nation was not well equipped enough to support the amount of people within it. Actions to defeat this problem came through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which was designed to limit the amount of those staying within the United States, while also giving opportunities for families to stay together once brought over. With this type of legislation in place, the fault of the overpopulation could not truthfully fall onto the immigrants, and politicians today are left with little to no real basis for the claim of having no fault. Due to overwhelming amount of pride in the using of a nation of people to reap benefits, the need for reparations of any kinds towards Mexico and those of Mexican descent has been erased and instead leaves resentment from the American people on issues that they are not formally educated on. And frankly, for being the “superior nation of the world,” as well as the most successful in terms of economic function, continual juxtaposition of the ideas of those that came before us depicts a very different image. The overwhelming truth that most neglect to acknowledge is that the United States needed Mexico well before Mexico ever needed the U.S., and the narrative of the United States being the saving grace is far from the truth, as they are what aided in the creation of most of the economic and political instability that Mexico faces today.
Rather than placing blame on an entire race of individuals for seeking shelter in a place they were once welcomed, it it the responsibility of the United States to live up to their demands and provide adequate aid in the way that Mexico had done before. The horrifying truths behind the workers that are still here with more than thirty percent making less than five dollars a day, as well as the rampant sexual and verbal abuse of immigrants at the hands of deportation officers, are all problems that require a fair hand of justice to end.
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