The Impact of Migration and Immigration in the Early 20th Century

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Updated: Jun 21, 2023
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Migration is a fervently discussed theme that frequently isolates reasoning within the United States.

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It is regularly examined but infrequently comprehended. Migration has been a developing and sparkling part of our nation for a considerable length of time. Currently, one in each eight of the United States’ occupants is a foreigner (Immigrant). Our southern neighboring state, Mexico, has a vast history of immigration to this country. The Mexican Revolution, World War I, and World War II were all driving forces for immigration within the United States. In this paper, I will talk about the historical backdrop of Mexican settlers, their contribution, and the eventual fate of their movement inside this nation.

Initially, let us investigate the historical background of Mexicans and their movement to this nation. Mexico is a Spanish-speaking nation that shares a two-thousand-mile-long border with the United States. Mexico is a country that is rich in culture, tradition, and historical background. Mexican migration to the United States was rare up until about the late nineteenth century. Amid the 1980s, farming, meatpacking, and mining ended up as colossal businesses inside the midwest of The United States of America (Steinhauer). Mexico is a largely agricultural economy, and in spite of the fact that Mexican settlers resonated with and were appropriate for this kind of employment, the blast of migration did not begin until after the Mexican Revolution.

The Mexican Revolution started when the tyrant, Porfirio Diaz Mori, needed to reinforce and enhance his association with Mexico’s northern neighbor, the United States of America (PBS). Diaz designated land that was once owned by Mexicans to wealthy Americans. Native Mexicans were losing their homes, the lands where generations of their family had worked on. There was no other alternative in the majority of Mexico’s residents’ eyes besides an uprising against their dictator due to the fact that the land laws made it extremely difficult for small farmers and rendered them completely vulnerable. This caused a string of extremely violent acts carried out to achieve their agenda, yet leaders were just replaced repeatedly with little positive political action actually taking place.

Subsequently, the number of legal immigrants in the United States during this time began to soar, going from twenty thousand migrants per year in the 1910s to about fifty to one hundred thousand migrants per year during the 1920s (Steinhauer). Nebraska also experienced a huge trend in immigration. Currently, War refugees and political exiles immigrated to the United States to maintain a strategic distance from this grisly and barbarous insurgency. They were in search of the “American Dream” they had heard about all of their life, to achieve financial success and to provide for their families. The involvement and sudden increase of Mexican labor workers allowed for the agricultural business in the Midwest to skyrocket. Meatpacking plants in rural Nebraska also had a great need for immigrant workers (Garza). One of the major crops that located Mexican immigrants to Nebraska in the early 20th century was the sugar beet (Davis). This source of sugar came from Europe and was a booming industry in the early twentieth century.

Interestingly enough, western Nebraskan soil was an ideal counterpart for the plant resulting in flourishing sugar beets rather than sugar cane. These Mexican immigrants who worked on these farms called themselves “Los Betabeleros,” which translates to sugar beet workers (Lampe). This industry is imperative to the rich history of Mexican immigrants as it was a driving force for immigration. A problem for the local farmer is that typically, Latinos who work in agriculture may not settle permanently in one location because of the alternating crop seasons. Eventually, the need for experienced and stable field labor workers increased, and companies needed to keep their employees around full-time by constructing adobe homes for them and their families (Davis).

The Immigration Act of 1924 included quotas for immigration, but Mexico and most of the western hemisphere were excluded as farmers argued they would not be able to find suitable workers without them (Davis). By 1927, hundreds of these “colonies,” low-cost settlements, were built by sugar beet corporations throughout the Great Plains, and the idea that Mexican immigrants were temporary workers was destroyed (Davis). But unfortunately, when the detrimental economy of the depression smacked the United States in the 1930s, migrant workers were not as attractive to the local farmer as they wanted to hire local workers first to improve “their” community (Davis). The need for labor was low as the farm industry dried up. So, immigration was at a halt, and thousands of immigrants moved back to Mexico because there were scarce occupations anywhere.

On the other hand, along came an important and essential development within the world, World War II. This war was the most largely participated and bloodiest war in the modern history of the world. This war lasted six years, from 1939 to 1945, and virtually every part of the world was involved, such as Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. (Royde-Smith). Nothing else changes the dynamic of a country and its history as much as a war, particularly a world war. It was a very huge and transformative experience for this county. It changed the country completely, and despite everything, we can still see its effects today. Mexicans continued to immigrate because farmers got addicted to and dependent on cheap labor from Mexico. Farmworkers after World War II were in the middle class, so they no longer wanted to do the grueling multiple jobs of a farmer, and that was a fear that came with World War II. American involvement, such as drafting in the war, resulted in farm labor shortages, which in turn the need for Mexican workers to replace displaced Americans increased immensely.

Congress responded by creating the Bracero Program, which operated from 1942 to 1964, to give Mexicans temporary visas, which allowed farmers to employ Mexican nationals (Jr). This program was designed to be a temporary fix but, instead, lasted over twenty years, and we can see this program’s effects today. During this time that the program was open, over five million Mexican workers entered the country (Garcia, 1980). Even after the Bracero Program was canceled, farmers still depended on Mexican immigrants for their cheap and dependable labor, especially in the Midwest. The United States became and still is a transformed nation resulting from this world war and this life-changing program. In spite of the fact that this was seen as a relatively good and expansive program, in 1954, Congress allowed the Border Patrol to launch Operation Wetback. This program was created to target illegal Mexican immigrants and then identify and refer to them as braceros, referring to the Bracero Program (Jr).

Operation Wetback posed the ultimate threat as Mexican Americans became very aware of the fact that their presence in this country would always be backed by selfishness and discrimination, just like the name of the operation (Jr). The effects of these discriminations are still shown in the mass deportations of Mexican immigrants. This can be best exemplified through mass deportation following a planned immigration raid in a meatpacking plant owned by Excel Corporation in Nebraska on May 5, 1995 (Press). This immigration raid was a cooperative set-up planned for more than a month by Excel Corporation and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to uncover illegal immigrants working within these plants (Press). This raid was part of an eighteen statewide program that resulted in over eight hundred deceived hard-working men and women who were planning to report to work for a half-shift to be deported out of this country (Press). In August of 2018, there was another planned immigration raid based in O’Neill, Nebraska, and other surrounding areas where over one hundred and thirty were detained (Robb). These immigration raids are extremely detrimental, financially and emotionally, to these indicted immigrants and their families. We see that many times these targets for raids are Spanish-based businesses or Spanish-majority employed farms.

Once the United States started transitioning into an increasingly industrialized nation during the 1950s, many Latinos sought out better-paying and steadier occupations such as railroad work or working at meatpacking plants. There were huge amounts of meat packing plants in the Midwest as the Midwest’s largest economy was farming. This transition offered positive alternatives to working the sugar beet fields and, in turn, allowed immigrants to reside in permanent homes.

The United States began to rethink its immigration policy in 1952. The 1952 Immigration Act was a refinement of the 1924 Immigration Act, including quotas for immigrants in different countries. Before, Mexican immigration was up in huge numbers in order to supply farms with legitimate workers. Deportation was brief in the 1950s, and many people were emitted as refugees. Be that as it may, this law had significant and noteworthy negative effects on immigration from Mexico and the surrounding Latin American countries. It was now easier to be deported, and those who looked of Hispanic descent, or worked at predominantly Mexican businesses or farms, were easily targeted by law officials. In addition to the statement made previously, there were more substantial fines and a higher maximum jail time set for those who were convicted of withholding knowledge about someone’s illegal status within this country, including employers, friends, or anyone with a relationship with an illegal immigrant. We can see yet again that this law tarnished the relationship between Americans and Mexicans within this country because of its negative effects. It enforced the idea behind separation and racism within America. This is a constant theme we can see throughout America’s history and its constituent laws.

Another transformative act was the 1965 Immigration Act; this law gave each nation an equal number of slots, or opportunities for legal immigration, into the country. Essentially, this was supposed to right all the past wrong laws, such as restrictive quotas for other countries. With this law, there were an allowed twenty thousand immigrants allowed into the country each year from each country (Massey). There was an emphasis on family unification, so a quota was not set for the immediate family, such as spouses, children, and parents of legally American children. President Lyndon Baines Johnson went to sign the law in New York City at the Statue of Liberty, as this law was extremely popular with the public. It was in front of the State of Liberty that this law was set in place and made monumental history. Congress had no idea how revolutionary and transformative this law was going to be; this law really changed the makeup of this country. Many countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia took advantage of this act as their rates of immigration boomed during this time. Although it seemed like a good law and imposed positive changes, it also resulted in an increase of illegal immigrants from Mexico because more than twenty thousand wanted into the country annually. In the 1990s, the law was reformed and modified, so it no longer exists. Unfortunately, after that, it halted immigration within the country.

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The Impact of Migration and Immigration in the Early 20th Century. (2023, Jun 21). Retrieved from