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Immigration Restriction
Digital History ID 592

Author:   Ernesto Galarza
Date:1929

Annotation: Responding to demands that Mexican migration be shut off, Ernesto Galarza, a Mexican American scholar, describes the problems that Mexican Americans face.


Document: Something must be done in the way of social and economic amelioration for those Mexicans who have already settled in the United States and whose problem is that of finding adjustment. Thus far in the discussion the Mexicans who have settled more or less permanently here have been taken into account negatively....

For the moment...everyone has presented his side of the case except the Mexican worker himself.... I speak to you today as one of these immigrants....

First, as to unemployment. The Mexican is the first to suffer from depression in industrial and agricultural enterprises.... I flatly disagree with those who maintain that there is enough work for these people but that they refuse to work, preferring to live on charity. On the contrary, it is widely felt by the Mexicans that there are more men than there are jobs.... The precariousness of the job in the face of so much competition has brought home to the Mexican time and again his absolute weakness as a bargainer for employment....

He has also something to say as to the wage scale.... The Mexican...recognizes his absolute inability to force his wage upward and by dint of necessity he shuffles along with a standard of living which the American worker regards with contempt and alarm....

The distribution of the labor supply is felt by the Mexican to be inadequate. At present he has to rely mainly on hearsay or on the information of unscrupulous contractors who overcharge him for transportation....

...The Mexican immigrant still feels the burden of old prejudices. Only when there are threats to limit immigration from Mexico is it that a few in America sing the praises of the peon.... At other times the sentiments which seem to be deeply rooted in the American mind are that he is unclean, improvident, indolent, and innately dull. Add to this the suspicion that he constitutes a peril to the American worker's wage scale and you have a situation with which no average Mexican can cope....

...I would ask for recognition of the Mexican's contribution to the agricultural and industrial expansion of western United States.... From Denver to Los Angeles and from the Imperial Valley to Portland, it is said, an empire has been created largely by the brawn of the humble Mexican, who laid the rails and topped the beets and poured the cubic miles of cement.... If it is true that the Mexican has brought to you arms that have fastened a civilization on the Pacific slope, then give him his due. If you give him his earned wage and he proves improvident teach him otherwise; if he is tuberculous, cure him; if he falls into indigence, raise him. He has built you an empire!

Source: Ernesto Galarza, "Life in the United States for Mexican People: Out of the Experience of a Mexican" from Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 56th Annual Session, University of Chicago Press, 1929.

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