In July 1942, the Bracero Program (Mexican farm labor program) was established by an executive order issued by President Roosevelt. It was initiated on August 4, 1942, and was to last only until the end of World War II. However, it was later extended by the Migrant Labor Agreement in 1951. During its 22-year duration, one of the bracero program benefits was its provision of jobs to nearly 5 million braceros in 24 U.S. states. This was the largest foreign worker program in the history of the U.S.
Nonetheless, the bracero program came to an end on December 31, 1964, due to some bad effects of the program such as an increase in undocumented immigration and low farm wages that U.S agricultural workers were suffering due to the presence of braceros. However, despite the adverse effects of the program, it had its benefits. In this article, we will be discussing the bracero program and its benefits.
What was the Bracero program and how beneficial was it?
The Bracero program was a series of laws and diplomatic agreements (Mexican farm labor program) that the U.S. government signed with the Mexican government to allow Mexican citizens (braceros) into the United States to take on short-term labor contracts in farms. The program was initiated on August 4, 1942, and ended on December 31, 1964. The reason why the bracero program was created was to address the national agricultural labor shortage that the U.S. was suffering during World War II.
During World War II, so many Americans were in the military, and as such farmers in the United States were worried that they would not have enough agricultural labor to meet their needs. Hence, in response to this, the U.S. government negotiated a series of agreements with the Mexican government creating the bracero program. Under the terms of the agreement, Mexican laborers were to come as agricultural workers to the United States on short-term contracts and go back once their contracts had expired.
The bracero program operated as a joint program under the Department of Labor, the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), and the State Department and lasted for 22 years. Unfortunately, several years of the Mexican farm labor program led to an increase in undocumented immigration and an increase in practices that were outside of the bracero program guidelines. Hence, the program came to an end on December 31, 1964, due to certain reasons.
Some of the concerns that led to the end of the Bracero program were that the presence of Braceros reduced the wages of U.S. farm workers. The other reasons for the end were the mechanization of cotton and sugar beet harvesting, the increase in undocumented immigration, and the political agreement to end the competition between Braceros and U.S. farm workers in the fields.
President John Kennedy was convinced by the November 1960 CBS documentary Harvest of Shame that Braceros were adversely affecting the farm wages, working conditions, and employment opportunities of U. S farm workers. Hence, with time, these concerns contributed to the end of the bracero program in 1964.
What were the benefits of the bracero program for the braceros?
Under the terms of the bracero program, the employed Mexican farm workers (braceros) were entitled to a minimum wage of 30 cents an hour and were guaranteed food, adequate housing, sanitation, transportation, and decent living conditions. The terms of the agreement also promised protection of the braceros from racial discrimination and forced military service. In addition, as part of the contract, a part of the bracero’s wages was to be put into a private savings account in Mexico. That is ten percent of their wages are withheld and placed in a fund controlled by the Mexican government.
All these offers and benefits of the bracero program prompted thousands of unemployed Mexican workers to join the program. The braceros that joined the program were either single men or family men who left their families behind. On September 27, 1942, the first braceros were admitted for the sugar-beet harvest season. From 1948 to 1964, an average of 200,000 braceros per year were admitted into the U.S. through the program.
Bracero Program benefits
- The bracero program helped the U.S solve the shortage of labor during World War II
- It provided employment for Mexican workers
- It also helped to enhance crop production in Mexico and was a source of internal revenue
There has been a historical debate about whether the Bracero program was good or bad. The fact remains that the program is definitely one story of both struggle and success. In as much as the Mexican farm labor program had its bad effects, it had its benefits as well. The U.S. government, the Mexican government, and even the braceros themselves had a fair share of the bracero program benefits. Here are three benefits of the program:
The bracero program helped the U.S solve the shortage of labor during World War II
The United States had its fair share of the benefits of the bracero program during world war II. During the war, so many Americans were in the military and as a result, there was an agricultural labor shortage. This made farmers worried as they did not have enough agricultural labor to meet their needs. In response to this, the Mexican farm labor program was created to allow braceros to work on farms in the United States on agricultural short-term labor contracts. For the Americans, the Bracero Program was a good way to keep their land-producing agriculture.
Even after the war, the program continued. Hence, one of the major Bracero Program benefits to the U.S. is that the program helped assist during the war and forever advanced the productivity of American agriculture. Also, another advantage of the creation of the Mexican farm labor program is that it offered the U.S. government a chance to make up for some of the repatriations in the 1930s that happened to Mexican Americans.
The bracero program provided employment for Mexican workers
One of the significant benefits of the bracero program is that it was a great opportunity for Mexican workers to get temporary employment in the United States. Under the terms of the program, braceros were entitled to a minimum wage of 30 cents an hour and were guaranteed food, adequate housing, sanitation, transportation, and decent living conditions. The owners of the farmland on which the worker worked were responsible for their welfare. They were to pay braceros for their work and give them transportation to and from the farms.
A lot of Mexican workers saw the benefits that came with the bracero program as a greener pasture. Hence, a lot of them entered the United States through the program and changed their lives. Therefore, one of the bracero program benefits was its provision of jobs to nearly 5 million braceros. The program was beneficial for the braceros because they could afford to have money to help their families with housing, and food, and also provide education for their children. However, there were numerous reports that some braceros were underpaid, overworked, and housed in poor living conditions.
The bracero program helped to enhance crop production in Mexico and was a source of internal revenue
The Mexican farm labor program was beneficial to the Mexican government as well. Some of the bracero program benefits to Mexico was an enhancement in their crop production and internal revenue generation. The Mexican government signed the agreement with the U.S. government because it wanted Mexican workers to learn new agricultural skills that they could bring back to Mexico in order to enhance crop production in the country.
Also, the bracero program was a way for the Mexican government to generate internal revenue. Under the terms of the agreement, the braceros agreed to have ten percent of their wages withheld and placed in a fund controlled by the Mexican government. That is, the workers were expected to remit some of the money that they earned back to Mexico, in order to help stimulate the country’s economy. Hence, the bracero program was beneficial as it helped stimulate the country’s economy.
In conclusion, braceros during the course of this program contributed immensely to U.S. agriculture and their experiences contributed to lasting positive impacts on U.S. immigration and labor policy. However, despite the Bracero Program benefits, the program suffered from notable political and social problems.
The Mexican farm labor program, over time, brought about an increase in undocumented immigrants, braceros were routinely underpaid and treated badly and farm labor wages stagnated at low levels. American farm workers were even subtly pushed out of farm work due to the presence of braceros. Nonetheless, the bracero program had its positive impacts and has an indelible mark in U.S. agriculture and U.S-Mexican migration history.