Revisiting the Bracero Program

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryThose Mexican workers who came to the United States to work in the fields and in some industries were assigned to a certain area to be, had their housing assigned, had to work a certain number of hours a week, and had certain rights that no American employer could violate. This was the Bracero Program. It was created to not only help America’s war effort during the Second World War (1941-1945), but it also helped Mexico’s economy. One thing that must be remembered is that the Bracero Program did not just work in America’s favor—it was negotiated between the United States and Mexico to help in part guarantee that Mexican workers’ rights would also be respected. This was a far cry from Mexicans being treated “like slaves.” When the war ended, the U.S. government saw little need for the Bracero Program as American servicemen returning from war needed jobs and would even take dirty and back-breaking jobs in the agricultural sector. Sadly, the United States did not entirely live up to its expectations of the Bracero Program, and the whole program was officially abolished in 1964.

Fast-forward to 2012, and strangely enough America faces a manpower shortage in regards to having enough people to pick certain kinds of fruit and vegetables that still require those skilled in picking the fruit and vegetables when they are ripe. There may be many Americans who can pick fruits and vegetables and endure long hours in the sun and foul weather, but most Americans cannot and hence there remains a labor shortage in this part of the agricultural sector. Many farmers from across the country are crying out for the U.S. government to try and expedite the legal process of importing workers from Mexico or Central America to be able to have enough people to pick the fruit and vegetables we eat. But the immigration process, which is now totally overburdened with bringing in immigrants for a whole list of reasons, is too slow and antiquated to even begin to handle bringing in enough agricultural workers for America’s needs.

Hence, a new Bracero Program might be the answer. Under such a program the whole visa process could be expedited far quicker, and such an agreement between the United States and Mexico (and all other countries in Central America) could be mutually beneficial to both countries. The help in America’s agricultural sector would help to lower prices for the American consumer and also to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in the market thus making America’s agricultural sector more productive. At the same time, the imported migrant workers could make money that they can send back to their respective countries and greatly improve the economic well-being of their own countries of origin. This type of program has worked before, and under the circumstances prevailing it could work again.

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