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Employers Favor Increased Mexican Immigration

During the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the U.S. passed a number of laws restricting immigration by nationalities seen as racially inferior. For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred all immigration from China, while the 1917 Immigration Act expanded the ban to much of Asia and imposed a literacy test on all new immigrants. Not all Americans opposed non-white immigration, however. Employers in southwestern states like Texas and Arizona viewed Mexican labor as vital to the region's prosperity and successfully lobbied Congress to exempt Mexican immigrants from a literacy test requirement enacted in 1917. In 1920, as the Senate was considering suspending the literacy test for Mexicans, employers testified about why Mexican labor was important and why, in their view, Mexican immigrants posed no threat to the United States.


Miller: Now, let me just give you this viewpoint, which is ours. Southwest Texas—that is to say, that portion of the State which lies south of San Antonio, and from Victoria south—an area which is larger than many States of the Union, has been built up upon Mexican labor. The Mexican is indigenous to that territory. He was there before the white man came. As you well know, that section of Texas lying between the Nueces and the Rio Grande was a bone of contention away back before this Government went into Mexico. So when the white people went there and began this agricultural development they found the Mexican there, and he supplied the necessary labor which in other sections of the South has, until recent years, been supplied by the Negro. And so our agricultural development has been predicated and based entirely upon the aid of the Mexicans. It would not have occurred without his help.

Senator King: There is one more question I want to ask: Do any of these Mexicans who come to the United States for agricultural labor belong to the Carranzistas, or any of the revolutionary parties there?

Miller: Senator, I do not believe they know a thing in the world about it—the ones we get in our country. They are an ignorant class. They are peaceable, and they are docile. I do not really believe they know who the President of Mexico is. The truth of the matter is, we people who live in that section believe the trouble with Mexico is that the people are hungry, and they will follow this leader, or that leader, or any other leader who will offer to feed them and give them clothes; and they know absolutely nothing about the cause that he represents. I think one of the greatest services the people of this country could render the people of Mexico to-day would be some arrangement whereby they could come across and help us and get paid for it. That would do more than anything else to tranquilize conditions on the border.

Source | Hearing on S. J. Res. 66, Before the Committee on Immigration, 66th Cong. (1920).
Creator | United States Senate
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | United States Senate, “Employers Favor Increased Mexican Immigration,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 25, 2023,

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