What’s old is new again when it comes to migrant farm workers. President Franklin Roosevelt signed an agreement in August 1942 with Mexico that created the bracero program, which allowed farmworkers into the U.S. to provide farm labor to replace citizens who were drafted or signed up for military duty after Pearl Harbor.
I worked in a retail store that catered to bracero workers. In this particular store, we brought in foot lockers by the truckload. Every week, a new group came in and another group headed back to Mexico. The workers heading home packed the foot lockers with over-the-counter medications, children’s clothing and special gifts for loved ones.
This program ran until 1964 when Congress was pressured by the AFL-CIO to end it. Unions were backing Caesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers. After all, bracero workers didn’t pay union dues. And unions use those dues to support Democratic politicians.
At the time, the latest farmworker bill just passed in the House included a path to citizenship and had support from both sides of the aisle. The unions also supported the bill.
Fast forward twenty years and all of a sudden there were over three million illegal immigrants in the Untied States. Or to be politically correct, “undocumented immigrants.” Sen. Alan Simpson (R) and Rep. Romano Mazzoli (D) worked together to create an immigration bill that would grant amnesty and fund border security. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill, granting legal status to almost three million immigrants.
However, the Democrat-controlled House failed to provide funding for border security.
During the George W. Bush Administration, several comprehensive immigration bills were proposed with bipartisan sponsors that went nowhere. Democrats held out for a quick path to citizenship and – are you ready for this – refused to provide funding for border security.
Another attempt for a bipartisan immigration bill involved the infamous Gang of Eight in 2013. This group included Senators John McCain (R), Jeff Flake (R), Marco Rubio (R), Lindsey Graham (R), Charles Schumer (D), Dick Durbin (D), Robert Mendez (D) and Michael Bennet (D).
The bill passed the Senate with 68 votes and then the bill went to the Republican-controlled House, where it languished and then went away. Depending on what news accounts you read, it appears that Republicans were unhappy with the way the Obamacare was done and the Democrats wanted to add more features that were unacceptable to Republicans.
As late as 2019, President Donald Trump initiated a meeting with Speaker Pelosi to discuss a compromise to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and border security. According to the speaker, “it was a non-starter.” She talked about a fast track to citizenship and ignored border security funding.
President Joe Biden used his first day in office to sign executive orders reversing President Trump’s rules on immigration. That simple act has created a crisis at the border that President Biden refuses to acknowledge.
Just when we have a handle on the COVID-19 situation, we find out that 108 illegal immigrants who tested positive were dropped off at the bus station in Brownsville, Texas, by Border Patrol officers.
It is way past time to reach a compromise on immigration. Most Republicans could live with an amnesty that included a 12-year wait for citizenship application. My fear is that Democrats will promise border security and fail to follow through as in previous years.
After researching this subject, I have come to the conclusion that Democrats are more concerned with creating citizenship opportunities and adding to the voter rolls rather than supporting border security and humanitarian efforts.
As Rodney King said, “Can’t we all just get along?” And if you don’t know who Rodney King is, you’re not as “woke” as you think you are.
Dennis Pierce is a writer who is a 36-year resident of Southwest Colorado.