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An Economist Declares Mexicans "An Undesirable Class of Residents"

Discussions of the "Mexican problem" in the early 20th century often revolved around issues of race and culture, much as they did with other immigrant groups. Samuel Bryan published this study of Mexican immigrants in a leading Progressive social science journal in 1912.

Socially and politically the presence of large numbers of Mexicans in this country gives rise to serious problems. The reports of the Immigration Commission show that they lack ambition, are to a very large extent illiterate in their native languages, are slow to learn English, and in most cases show no political interest...  Although more of them are married and have their families with them than is the case among the south European immigrants, they are unsettled as a class, move readily from place to place, and do not acquire or lease land to any extent.  But their most unfavorable characteristic is their inclination to form colonies and live in a clannish manner.  Wherever a considerable group of Mexicans are employed, they live together, if possible, and associate very little with members of other races...  As is to be expected under the circumstances, the proportion of criminals and paupers among the Mexicans is noticeably greater than among the other foreign-born or among the natives...

In conclusion it should be recognized that although the Mexicans have proved to be efficient laborers in certain industries, and have afforded a cheap and elastic labor supply for the southwestern United States, the evils to the community at large which their presence in large numbers almost invariably brings may more than overbalance their desirable qualities.  Their low standards of living and of morals, their illiteracy, their utter lack of proper political interest, the retarding effect of their employment upon the wage scale of the more progressive races, combine to stamp them as a rather undesirable class of residents.  

Source | Samuel Bryan, "Mexican Immigrants in the United States," The Survey, 1912.
Creator | Samuel Bryan
Item Type | Article/Essay
Cite This document | Samuel Bryan, “An Economist Declares Mexicans "An Undesirable Class of Residents",” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 30, 2023,

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