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California

California law seeks history of Mexican deportations in textbooks

Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a U.S.-China climate summit in Los Angeles on Sept. 15.

(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation encouraging that future history textbooks for public schools in California include a section on the 1930s deportation of more than 1 million U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

“With our state being the home to so many successful Mexican Americans, our children and all Californians should be aware of the injustices that took place so long ago,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), author of the measure.

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The idea for the bill was submitted by a fifth-grade class at Bell Gardens Elementary School, according to Garcia’s office, as part of her annual  “There Ought to Be a Law” contest.

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“The students spoke about how difficult it was for them to find historic information on the Repatriation, but as they dug and learned more, the impacts of this tragic period affected them on a very personal level.” she said in a statement. 

Mexican Repatriation Act has long been a point of anger to many Mexican-Americans. The Times explained the genesis of the law this way in an article in 2003:

By the eve of the Great Depression in the late 1920s, the subject of Mexican labor had become a point of regional political rivalry. Agricultural producers in the South had begun to advocate immigration quotas for Mexican nationals. But those same Mexican nationals had been an important source of labor in California’s agricultural industry, which had emerged as competition for Southern agriculture.

The onset of the Depression, however, created far broader support for action against Mexican and Mexican American laborers. By 1930, worsening unemployment and growing demands for public aid brought a backlash.

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In Washington, Republican President Herbert Hoover initiated a “repatriation” program in 1930. Federal support ended when Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, but state and local governments continued their efforts throughout the decade.
Across the country, Mexicans -- or people suspected of being Mexican -- were stopped on the streets and asked to show papers to prove their right to be in the United States. 

Railroads agreed to carry the deportees for half the usual fare, paid by California counties and cities.

Read more about the act here.

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