UNCONSTITUTIONAL DEPORTATION OF MEXICAN AMERICANS DURING THE 1930s: A Family History & Oral History

By Valenciana, Christine | Multicultural Education, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

UNCONSTITUTIONAL DEPORTATION OF MEXICAN AMERICANS DURING THE 1930s: A Family History & Oral History


Valenciana, Christine, Multicultural Education


I feel that that this country should have done something for its citizens instead of getting rid of them the way they did. The American government said, 'Let's get rid of the Mexicans since they're the closest to their native lands.' (Castaneda, 1972)

Introduction

Many educators are committed to multicultural education and are constantly seeking an inclusive curriculum voicing the diversity of the many cultural groups in the United States. The influential work of James Banks (1981, 1997, 2001) has encouraged a generation of educators to design a multicultural curriculum.

Yet while this task remains an important goal for all educators so students may develop an understanding of their own history as well as a respect for the history of others, exclusion of the historical experience of the other is still apparent in many social science textbooks adopted by local and state boards of education.

This article will explore the topic of the unconstitutional deportation of Mexican Americans (American born citizens) during the 1930s and advocate for its inclusion in elementary and secondary social studies curricula, especially through the use of family history and oral history. Actual quotes from oral history interviews conducted by the author and others are included here. This deportation is estimated to have involved 1-2 million people across the United States, with the majority of individuals involved being American born (Balderrama, Rodriguez, 1995).

American history regrettably has other examples of intolerance and the violation of the constitutional rights of various ethnic groups, such as the internment of Japanese Americans in relocation camps during World War II and the forced relocation of Native Americans to reservations. More recently, we have seen acts of intolerance and suspicion aimed at citizens of Middle Eastern origin following the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11,2001. Thus, the work of educators is to teach children about the mistakes made by our citizens and government during social, politial, economic, and war crises. Teaching about these violations can help create a more just and accepting pluralistic society so that such acts are never committed again.

Unconstitutional Deportation of Mexican Americans in the 1930s

The Great Depression was the most severe economic catastrophe of the twentieth-century with vast unemployment and underemployment. Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the United States were especially vulnerable during this time of social and political as well as economic crisis. State governments passed legislation prohibiting the employment of aliens on work projects financed by government funds. Many private companies and industries also adopted an anti-Mexican policy in their hiring practices.

These policies had a profound impact on the Mexican population, because the larger American society regarded "all Mexicans as Mexicans." There was no distinction between Mexican Nationals and American citizens of Mexican descent. So employment was especially difficult to obtain for Mexican Americans as well as Mexicans.

The federal government during the Herbert Hoover Administration also conducted widespread pubic roundups or raids in search of "aliens" perceived to be taking jobs away from American citizens. These raids created fear and anxiety in the Mexican population.

However, the greatest challenge for the Mexican American community was the local campaign by private companies and public welfare agencies of "repatriation." "Repatriation" was a propaganda term created by the local agencies to mask the unconstitutional deportation of Mexicans, many who were legal residents and had lived in the United States for decades along with their American-born children (Examination of the Unconstitutional Deportation and Coerced Emigration of Legal Residents and U.S. Citizens of Mexican Descent, 2003; Balderrama & Rodriguez, 1995). …

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