Promotion, Opposition and Manipulation: Mexican Deportations and Repatriations in 1930s Southern California
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The economic collapse of the late 1920s left millions of Americans demanding an explanation and solution from the government for their high rates of unemployment and economic privation. Federal officials shifted much of the blame to illegal immigrants. In Southern California, local authorities began a ruthless campaign to rid the area of illegal immigrants, particularly Mexicans. While labor organizations and newspapers supported the local government, opposition emerged from some sectors of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, nonprofit organizations, and the Mexican Consul. Each group viewed Mexicans through a different lens, employing rhetoric that justified their own distorted views and intentions. My research responds to the question: Which lens and corresponding rhetoric regarding Mexican immigrants prevailed and shaped public policy during the Great Depression? An evaluation of Chamber of Commerce records, immigration reports, and newspaper articles revealed that in the early 1930s, lenses framing the Mexican immigrant as a criminal, a strain on public welfare, and as taking American jobs, prevailed. The fear officials instilled in the Mexican community led thousands to depart in 1931 and 1932. While opponents? protests combined with a new administration and a decreasing Mexican population in Southern California did reduce deportations and repatriations in 1933, the prevalent concept of the Mexican as simply cheap labor that growers and business could easily exploit and discard continued to shape public policy throughout the rest of the decade.