Our discussion of US immigration history on April 10 was facilitated by Tim Groves, Debby Howland, and Faith Perry of the Church of the Covenant in Boston.
They led us through three questions:
- How does your faith inform how immigrants should be treated?
- What does it mean to be “American”?
- What is your family history in terms of immigration to this country?
Along the way, Tim, Debby and Faith
presented a history of US policies and laws related to the immigration
of Mexicans to this country. A large part of this history has been
encouraging Mexican immigration during times when cheap labor is needed,
followed by ‘repatriation’ during economic conditions where their labor
is perceived to be some kind of threat to American citizens. First
there was “Mexican Repatriation” following WWI and during the Great
Depression, when 60% of nearly 1 million Mexicans, including legal
citizens, were deported. Then, with the Bracero Program under FDR,
Mexican labor was brought back to fill agricultural and railroad jobs
during WWII. However, this was followed by “Operation Wetback” under
President Eisenhower when over 1 million of these workers were deported
in a one-year period.
In discussing our own family ancestries, and placing their immigration
years on the Immigration Timeline, we were reminded that our own
ancestors’ reasons for coming to this country are the same as for
current immigrants, which is to either escape hardship or persecution
and/or to pursue opportunities. All who participated in this discussion
appeared to recognize that our faith inspires us to welcome new
Americans as fellow sojourners on this planet.