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A Latinx Resource Guide: Civil Rights Cases and Events in the United States

1942: Bracero Program

Marjory Collins, photographer. Stockton (vicinity), California. Mexican agricultural laborer topping sugar beets. 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

An executive order called the Mexican Farm Labor Program established the Bracero Program in 1942. This series of diplomatic accords between Mexico and the United States permitted millions of Mexican men to work legally in the United States on short-term labor contracts. These agreements addressed a national agricultural labor shortage during WWII and implicitly, they redressed previous depression era deportations and repatriations that unjustly targeted Mexican Americans who were U.S. citizens. Upon its termination in 1964, the Bracero Program had brought more than four million Braceros (arms) to work in U.S. agriculture and on railroads.

During World War II, the U.S. sought labor from millions of Braceros, who would return to their country of origin after their work permit expired. El Paso, Texas, the U.S. point of entry from Ciudad Juarez, served as a recruitment center for the program, which the U.S. Agricultural Department and independent farmer associations administered with the Farm Bureau managing English-language contracts. The United States and Mexico agreed on a set of protocols that would protect Braceros from discrimination and poor wages. Nonetheless, discrimination continued and Braceros experienced sub charges for room and board, deducted pay, and exposure to deadly chemicals.

The Bracero Program concluded on December 31, 1964 as mechanization became more widespread. Ultimately, the program resulted in an influx of undocumented and documented laborers, 22 years of cheap labor from Mexico, and remittances to Mexico by Braceros.

Timeline

November 20, 1910-1924 The Mexican Revolution creates political, economic, and social unrest.
July 28, 1914-1919 A labor shortage during World War I causes U.S. dependence on Mexican agricultural workers.
1929 The Great Depression begins and many Mexican and Mexican Americans are deported or repatriated to Mexico.
September 1, 1939 World War II begins.
July 23, 1942 Mexico declares war on the Axis powers.
February 19, 1942 Executive Order 9066 places persons of Japanese ancestry, many whom worked on farms, into internment camps.
August 4, 1942 The Bracero Program issues temporary U.S. work permits to millions of Mexicans to ease labor shortages.
December 31, 1964 The Bracero Program is terminated.

Resources

Staff in the Hispanic Reading Room can provide access to these books at the Library of Congress. If you cannot visit the Library in person, please contact us using Ask a Librarian for assistance. In many cases, you can also find these materials at your local library.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

The following external websites can be useful for expanding your research on the Bracero Program.