From 1929 to 1936, as many as 2 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were forced to leave the United States and go back to Mexico. While federal records, suggest that only 82,000 Mexicans were deported through official removal proceedings, many others were either physically deported by local and state authorities or were coerceed into leaving over threat of federal deportation and fear of federal agents who supervised local raids. It is estimated that up to 60% of the individuals who were forced to leave the United States in the clandestine raids were US citizens or legal permanent residents.
Of course, there is no understating the impact of the Great Depression and fear of Mexicans taking American jobs. According to official United States INS Records, during the great depression, an estimated 400,000 to 1 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans left the US for Mexico. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS), they were quite often coerced by repatriation programs directed by local, state or charitable aid agencies. This conflicts with the general understanding that the INS played a much larger role in the Mexican repatriation programs.
UCIS explains it on their website this way: "INS did increase its deportation efforts during the 1930s and on several occasions the agency co-operated with local governments who sought to remove Mexicans from their jurisdictions. These actions understandably contributed to the current belief that the INS led a massive repatriation program. While the role of INS in the 1930s Mexican Repatriation programs is complex, there is no denying that the INS, the federal government and the Hoover administration played a major role. Starting at the top, is President Herbert Hoover's message on deporting "Alien Criminals" in his 1930 State of the Union address.
Hoover urged Congress to strengthen "our deportation laws so as to more fully rid ourselves of criminal aliens". Hoover's term "criminal aliens" is a little confusing, but he seems to be including thousands of persons whose only crime was entering our country illegally. Today, we typically use the term "criminal aliens" to mean illegal aliens who have been convicted of a crime, but here perhaps Hoover was using the term to refer to any alien who entered our country illegally, or "illegal aliens". Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Hoover was at minimum making a loose connection between "criminal aliens" and those who violate our immigration laws.
"I urge the strengthening of our deportation laws so as to more fully rid ourselves of criminal aliens. Furthermore, thousands of persons have entered the country in violation of the immigration laws. When Hoover first took office, there were raging debates between those who wanted to exploit cheap Mexican labor and those who felt it betrayed American workers and endangered the health and economy of cities like Los Angeles by introducing hordes of illiterate and diseased immigrants who may never become 'American'.
Rather than impose the quota restrictions that some of his political opponents proposed, Hoover instead chose to strengthen the Immigration services and raise a border patrol of nearly 800 officers. Many writers today, compare Hoover's efforts to recently proposed programs to increase the number of immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and crack down on "sanctuary cities". They describe the repatriation programs as federal programs which rounded up hundreds of thousands of immigrants and sent them to Mexico regardless of their legal status which some estimate to include as many as 60% United States Citizens.
According to official government figures, the number of immigrants deported by the federal government during the 1930s repatriation programs was only 82,000. The federal programs heated up in 1930, when President Hoover appointed William N. Doak as secretary of Labor. Doak believed that that the removal of illegal aliens or perhaps what Hoover termed "criminal aliens" would reduce the cost of relief programs and free up more jobs for American citizens, and launched intensive raids to find and deport illegal aliens. These efforts were accompanied by state, city and county efforts to repatriate poor Mexican families.
In some cases, federal agents were sent to supervise the local efforts to deport Mexicans. Local authorities, believed that the presence of these federal agents would scare many thousands of the illegals into leaving the country voluntarily. Efforts worked so well, that along with the threat of unemployment and loss of welfare programs, hundreds of thousands chose to leave voluntarily. According to UCIS, it was the Great Depression and the fear that Mexicans and other aliens were holding jobs that U.S. citizens needed.
Local governments and agencies began to require proof of legal residence for services, and used the threat of federal immigration law which held that immigrants who who were dependent upon these services could be departed. So in effect, while the federal agencies may have only physically deported 82,000 illegal aliens, the fear of those deportations led to a massive exodus of immigrants both legal and illegal. Some of these were purely voluntary, but many others were coerced by local and state authorities. Regardless of the circumstances, these repatriations were considered "voluntary" because they were outside of official federal removal proceedings.
So while, federal records only list 82,000 Mexicans removed from the country during the repatriation campaigns from 1929 to 1935, the actual number of repatriarchs may be as high as two million, or an estimated 30% of Mexicans living in the states of California, New Mexico and Texas at the time. It truly was a sad moment in our history, not because of restrictive immigration but because of the fear and hysteria that led to the abrupt repatriation of so many people. Even today, the federal government and the INS have not accepted the responsibility, nor apologized for the deportation of over one million Mexican and Mexican-Americans, but California and the County of Los Angeles did.
670 " “Apology Act for the 1930s Mexican Repatriation Program" and officially apologized for their role in the Mexican Repatriation Program. According to the Bill, starting in 1929, government authorities undertook an aggressive program to forcibly remove persons of Mexican ancestry from the United States. The bill claimed that approximately 400,000 American citizens and legal residents of Mexican ancestry in California alone were forced to go to Mexico. The bill stated that almost two million people of Mexican ancestry, including 1.2 million of them who were born in the United States were forced to leave the country.