Delivered Sunday, October 14
Barrie Eichhorn

(Revised and Enhanced Version)

Definition of a Gated Community – a community protected by gates, walls, guards and other security measures.

The United States was formed by thirteen English colonies on the Eastern seaboard fighting England for their independence.  This provided a somewhat common heritage.

The individual states were “taking care of their immigration problems until the end of the Civil War,

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution gave birthright citizenship to those born within the borders.  This was one of the changes to the Constitution brought about by the Civil War.  This is unique to the US and Canada.

In 1875, the nation, then consisting of 37 states made its first immigration law, the Page Act also called the Asia Exclusion Act because it denied entry to Asian contract laborers, prostitutes, and those who were criminals in their own country.  This was not a problem on the East Coast, but as the country expanded, the concerns did, as well.  This act was further expanded in 1882, to be the Chinese Exclusion Act which stopped the entry of Chinese laborers.


Immigration became a concern in 1907.  Reports showed that the immigration profile had shifted to Southern Europe and Russia.  The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 set a 3% quota on the number of immigrants admitted, based on the number of people from that country in the 1910 census.  The unsaid purpose was to reduce immigration, especially of Italians, Slavs and Eastern Europe or African Jews, as well as Arabs and Asians.

This proved not to be enough. Hence the revision in 1924.  According to the Official Historian at the US Department of State, “To preserve the ideal of American homogeneity”, the Immigration Act of 1924 was implemented.  It cut back the immigration to 2% and used the earlier census of 1890.  Certain preferences were established for current US residents/citizens.  So immigration from Sea to Shining Sea was established.  This Act set up the consular “system” to control immigration with offices abroad to issue visa (at a cost) and the INS (pre-cursor to ICE) to validate visas on entry.  These entry points were the docks and airports for trans-oceanic travel.

The southern border was different.  It defined the country to the south as a source of cheap, unskilled labor that could be expelled because of their proximity, a community of permanent strangers.

The 1924 Act also set up the border control with 1,500 employees up from the 300 the previous year.  That number continued to rise to 20,000 agents by 2014.

In the context of the times, the US was in the recession after WW I and did not want (couldn’t afford) the competition of “New” cheap labor.  The West Coast was getting a significant influx of Other Asians (Not Chinese, remember the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) and that “Yellow Peril” THEY WOULD NOT ASSIMILATE.  This attitude reflects the “tone” of the time.


Between 1931 and1935, as American joblessness reached its Depression heights, some 400,000 Mexicans, more than half who were American citizens, were “repatriated” to a country that in many cases they had never seen.  This was carried out entirely without due process.

WW II was begun.  There was no international rights of citizens.  These were not developed until after the war, because no one knew that they would be necessary.  The right of asylum was one of those, conspicuously missing.  In the 1930s, FDR relied on the immigrant quota system in effect at the time to justify US refusal to accept refugees from Nazi Germany.


Times change yet again.  With the US entering WW II, the Northwest (the garden of the US) needed unskilled “Cheap” labor.  If you saw the movie, you know that the young men from the Northwest enlisted in the war effort and the women were either milking cows or joining Tom Hanks playing baseball in A League of Their Own.

Mexico did entered WW II and had a good size farming community.  The US and Mexico entered into an agreement to bring in Mexican laborers on a temporary basis, returning them home to Mexico before winter.  This was called the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, i,e., Bracero Program (Spanish for manual laborer) and it started Aug 4, 1942.  The agreement guaranteed decent living conditions (sanitation, adequate shelter and food) and a minimum wage of $.30/hr.  The laborers would be transported to where they were needed at the beginning of the season and returned to Mexico at the end.

There were Braceros worker in the Southwest as well, but they could easily get back to Mexico and could be replaced quickly.  From the Northwest, it was much more difficult and you risked having crops wither in the fields.

The Mexicans that came turned out to be more independent than anticipated.  They went on strike almost every year for various things.  They had had a dose of communism/socialism in Mexico and they spoke up for their rights, under the agreement.  First of all, there was a problem with the food.  It was hard to get Mexican cooks, the US’s problem.  The breakfast was served too early, the lunch was a sandwich and a piece of fruit, which NO Mexican would eat.  Dinner was OK.  Secondly, some owners historically paid piece work rate rather than an hourly wage.  With some crops you couldn’t make $.30/hr at the piece work rate.  Plus, often they were not paid on a timely basis.

They did all of the work in the Northwest, but then they were expected to go to Idaho for some harvesting.  And many wanted to go home, not to Idaho.  And the “deal” was that they had to finish the picking season before they would be transported home.  And, of course, the Northwest has two seasons per year. So the US wanted them to provide their own transportation home or go to Idaho.

The government also hedged their bets.  Japanese were being held in Internment Camps against their will. They offered Japanese from the Internment Camps, an opportunity to participate in the harvesting.  I don’t know about the food and other conditions, but many helped out for the money.


Not every Mexican who participated in the program returned to Mexico at the end of the season.   Some immigrants stayed to become the original undocumented people.  It wasn’t easy to melt into the various communities, because there were not a lot of Hispanics in the area, but where there is a will, they will find a way.

The Bracero program attracted 76,000 people in1943, 118,000 in 1944, and more than 300,000 by 1945.  The program continued after the war and in 1946 there were more than 26,000 laborers working under the program.

In June of 1954, Operation Wetback was launched.  It provided a way to repatriate laborers who stayed on when their contract was complete.  1 million were repatriated the first year with a total of 3.8 million by the end of the effort.

Unions and churches continued to complain of the negative impact of the Bracero program on American workers, especially since the Braceros were sometimes getting better wages and benefits that the American workers.  (Several Bracero camps were closed as a result.)  President Kennedy, in 1961, amended the Bracero Program to guarantee US workers the same benefits that the Braceros received.  After signing, President Kennedy said “I am aware .. of the serious impact in Mexico if many thousands of workers employed in this country were summarily deprived of this much-needed employment.”   Nonetheless, in the next 2 years, workers tumbled to less than one-half of what they were.  The Bracero Program continued until 1964 in parallel with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 .


The Truman Commission on Migratory Labor in 1951 determined that the presence of Mexican workers depressed the income of American farmers.  But the government was conflicted.  The US Department of State urged a new program to counter the popularity of communism in Mexico.  The program continued.

A 1951 Agreement made the US Government the guarantor of the contract, not the US Employers.  Braceros could not strike and could not be used to replace strikers.  A year later, Congress made it a felony to harbor an immigrant, BUT there was a Texas Proviso said that “hiring an unauthorized worker did not constitute harboring or concealing them.”  I don’t know how this worked, but it continued to let people “off the hook”.

This is an on-going theme, where employers do not want to take responsibility to ascertain that their employees are documented.  We have seen this into the 21st century, where potential government appointments were withdrawn because the potential appointee had household help that was undocumented and that fact came to light in the vetting or the hearings.  I am pretty sure that the potential appointees did not go to jail, as least because of this.

This act was folded into the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 in the form of the H-2A visa.  It placed emphasis on labor qualifications.  Token quotas were set up for Asian countries, more for show than to really invite them.

This was during the “commie” scare so association with Communism ruled you out.  Also, those practicing polygamy, (this could have been a matter of not being able to figure out how to count the family against the quota).


President Truman Vetoed the 1952 Act, because he regarded the bill as “un-American”. He said, “Today we are protecting ourselves as we were in 1924 against being flooded by immigrants from Eastern Europe… we want to stretch out a helping hand, to save those who have managed to flee into Western Europe… the absurdity, the cruelty of carrying over into this year of 1952 the isolationist limitations of our 1924 law.  In no other realm of our national life are we so hampered and stultified by the dead hand of the past, as we are in this field of immigration.”

The congress overrode his veto and it became law on June 27, 1952,

Speaking for the Senate in support of the bill, before the veto, Senator McCarran said “I believe that this  nation is the last hope of Western civilization and if this oasis of the world shall be overrun, perverted, contaminated or destroyed, then the last flickering light of humanity will be extinguished…we have in the United States today hard-core, indigestible blocs which have not become integrated into the American way of life, …The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United States “

After the veto was overridden, President Truman directed the Commission On  Immigration and Naturalization to produce a report on the current immigrant regulations.  That report Whom We Shall Welcome served as a blue-print for a new act in 1965.


Again, the attitude of the time affects the legislation.  At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the restrictive immigration laws were seen as an embarrassment.  Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 on October 3, 1964 and went into effect on June 30, 1968.  At long last, national origin quotas were eliminated, family unification and employment skills were considered, quotas were set for the Western Hemisphere and refugees were in a special category, with request for asylum being outside the quota.  Several types of Visas for temporary laborers, were set up.  The features of the Bracero program were included under the conditions on the various type of visas.

President Lyndon Johnson gave an address on the signing of this legislation at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.  “This (old) system violates the basic principles of American democracy, the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man.  It has been un-American in the highest sense, because it has been untrue to the faith that brought thousands to these shores even before we were a country.”

This legislation still prohibited “sexual deviants”, those from the LGBT community, until the Immigration Act of 1990 provided a more enlightened view.


Many asserted that the bill would not alter the demographic mix of the country, but it did.  Prior to 1965, 68% of the legal immigrants came from Europe and Canada.  However, in 1971-1991, 47.9 % are from Hispanic and Latin American countries with 23.7% of those from Mexico and immigrants from Asia were 35.2%.

Immigrants accounted for 11% of population growth between 1960 & 1970, 33% from 1970-1980 and 39% from 1980-1990.

Strong demand by US employers and the redistribution of quotas by the Immigration Act led to rising numbers of immigrants who entered the US without visas, especially in the Southwest, because the number of visas were limited.


Policies in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, under Reagan, that were designed to curtail migration across the Mexican-US border led many unauthorized workers to settle permanently in the US, rather than return to Mexico.  The reaction was the anti-immigrant activism of the 1980s leading to border militarization, aggressive action by the Border Patrol and a focus of the media on the “criminality” of the immigrants.

The bill itself, required employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status, made it illegal to hire or recruit undocumented immigrants knowingly nad legalized certain seasonal agricultural undocumented immigrants.  The battle goes on trying, to make employers responsible for the documentation status of their employees.  A new work-around was adopted.  The hiring process changed as employers turned to indirect hiring through subcontractors.  By using a subcontractor, the final employer is not liable since the workers are not his employees.  But this also reduced the wages paid, because the subcontractors took a cut.


More interestingly, the act under Reagan granted amnesty to immigrants who entered the US before January 1, 1982 and had resided here continuously with NO history of criminal acts.  They had to pay a fine, back taxes and possess a minimal knowledge about US history and English.  Reagan extended the amnesty to children of those adults receiving amnesty, as well.

It was thought that about 4 million people would apply and about half that many would qualify.  What would be the response to the suggestion of amnesty today? I think, that eventually it will come to that in some amount or another.  The US has tried to control who may enter the country via the Immigration Laws and has been somewhat successful.  Each new edition of the laws tries to correct some problems that were highlighted in the previous laws, , but the process has been consistent, “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity” and “upholding the ethnic status quo and avoiding competition with foreign workers.”

Unfortunately, the amnesty left out the Central American immigrants who fled the violence in their countries after the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua in 1979, when the rightest governments of El Salvador and Guatemala stepped up their campaigns against leftist guerrillas and their civilian sympathizers.  This all ties in with the illegal Iran-Contra scandal.


The Immigration Act of 1990 created Temporary Protected Status (TPS) which granted work permits to immigrants from countries affected by war or natural disasters.

The Immigration Reform in 1996 put new obstacles in place for asylum seeker, among them giving every immigration agent the authority to deny them the opportunity present their case to a judge, or to lock them up in detention while their cases were reviewed.  As clarification, these are the government officials, usually Border Patrol, that intercept immigrants at the border without visas or capture and detain those who have already entered the country without going through the port of entry.


Immigration courts are administrative courts, so the legal and ethical system designed to guarantee a fair process to those accused of committing a crime does not apply, unless they also commit a criminal offense.  People have fewer rights and fewer resources to ensure that they can exercise the rights that they do have.  They have a right to be represented by an attorney, but at their own expense.  Many in detention don’t know they have this right or don’t know how to get a lawyer or how to pay for one.  84% of those in deportation proceedings have no attorney and only 3% without one, get the right to stay in the country.  Abuse is common and prompts some to leave the country voluntarily rather than risk deportation.  They assume mistakenly, that they will have a “clean” record and be able to re-apply legally in the near future.  Not So!

Many are not aware of legal options that might let them stay in the country.  Some opt for voluntary removal just to escape prolonged detention.  Immigrants are rarely released on bail, but that is an option.  They do not have to be incarcerated.  Immigrants remained locked in detention centers if they reject voluntary removal and the process is usually lengthy.  The average wait was 10 months, with some lasting a long as 4 years to issue a ruling.

In 2006, an act was introduced in the House and gained approval.  It called for up to 700 miles of fence at the most popular crossings.  It mandated fines for illegal immigrants, made housing one a felony and redefined being in the country illegally from a low-level civil infraction to a federal crime.  The bill died because it could not be reconciled with the much less stringent Senate bill.

I think that this make a good case that the USA is quite a bit like on large gated community OR would prefer to be, if the laws worked out as planned.

Definition of a Gated Community – a community protected by gates, walls, guards and other security measures.

Throughout the history of our nation, laws have been created that limit the immigration of certain ethnic categories, be they Asian, Italians, Jews, whatever.  This was an attempt to control just who were (or would be) the citizens of this country.  On the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, we advertised for those who were “poor, tired, yearning to be free”, but didn’t like who we got, so we attempted to be selective.  These selection criteria have been established by our Congress (most of whom are quite wealthy).  They have been elected by “We the people” from the people that are willing to represent us.  These representatives also speak for the various other special interests, some of which tend toward exclusiveness.  We have guarded our borders with the Border Patrol.


Refugees and Asylum

People that request Refugee status or are seeking asylum, do not count against the quotas in the Immigration Law.

Refugees can be caused by natural disasters or by conflict.

In the US, ‘refugee” originally almost always means “refugee from Communism”.

Asylum was established as a relief measure by the United Nations in 1952. Political asylum allows people suffering from persecution to seek refuge in a country other than their own if they can demonstrate that the persecutions falls under one or more  of 5 categories, religion, race, national minority status, political opinion or membership in a social group.  The persecution can be carried out by the state or by a particular group from which the state is either unwilling or unable to provide protection for the individual.  Political asylum grew out of an accord between nations following WW II, at a time when fascism and Communism were considered the main sources of persecution.

During the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many Cubans fled Communism.  The US accepted any and all Cubans with open arms.  They were fleeing Communism.  The US Coast Guard helped them to get to safety in Florida.  Again in 1980, Castro let an additional 125,000 Cubans flee, if they wanted to (and they did) and the US accepted them, even aided them in their flight.

But the policy was totally different for the Haitians.  During the 1970s, thousands of Haitians fled their country because of the harsh repression of dictator Duvalier’s regime.  But Duvalier was a friend of the US, so the assumption was that it was very unlikely that the problems the refugees were experiencing was a problem with the state.  In July 1978, the US decided that the refugees were to be considered economic and not political refugees, which greatly reduced their chances of qualifying for asylum.  The INS recommended that they be detained in the US, refused work permits while their cases were pending and processed and deported ASAP.

In September of 1981, President Reagan declared that Haitian immigrants represented “a serious national problem detrimental to the interest of the US”.  Through agreement with Duvalier, the US Coast Guard would turn them away.  They might recue them from their unsafe water crafts, but they would be returned to Haiti.

By the end of 1990, 23,000 Haitians had been detained at sea under the new policy.  Only 8 were granted asylum.


US legislation is restrictive when it comes to granting political asylum to citizens of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.  It should be noted under current immigration laws, these countries have very small quotas for applicants.  Essentially, NO visa are available in the countries themselves.  The limited number of visas have to be requested by people in the US, either family or employers.  There are pros and cons to this approach.

Asylum laws date to the 1980’s and were formulated based on the geopolitics of the Cold War, (i.e., Communist or Non-Communist), and those who come from Mexico and Central America are not considered eligible for protection since their governments are, at least theoretically, democracies.  The law has not evolve along with the social, political and economic changes of today.  It fails to comprehend the reality of a “failed state” that persecutes Mexican citizens, which is partly why political asylum is denied to Mexicans.  (Perhaps the new President Obrador taking office in December, will remedy this.  There is every hope.)

Immigrants from China, Iran or Venezuela, which the US defines as non-democratic, have approval rates for asylum applications of between 70 – 82%, while the rates of approval for asylum petitions from Honduras and Guatemala are around 15 – 16%.  Petitions from El Salvador are approved 8% of the time with Mexico trailing with barely 2% approval.  Faced with these dim prospects, the majority choose the only option they have; entering the country without documentation or with a temporary visa that will soon lapse, and fading into anonymity along the 14 million undocumented people living in this country.


Peace Treaties signed with Central America were designed to improve conditions in the region, but active and retired military personnel have since created their own centers of power outside of the government, fomenting organized crime.  Military reliance on the US gave way to economic dependence on foreign corps and an unstable labor market.

Our border is very porous, except when it comes to people.  Weapons can be purchased legally in gun shows in the US and then transported across the border by car, illegally.  40% of those weapons introduced illegally into Mexico come from Houston, Dallas and McAllen, Texas.  About 2,000 weapons/day enter Mexico from the US.  The Tepito crime syndicate has 35 sales locations in Mexico for those weapons from the US and those stolen from Mexico’s Secretary of National Defense.

Los Angles has a large population of Salvadoran migrants and a long history of gangs, two of which have attracted particular notice recently: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13 or MS-15) and Barrios 18.  Mara Salvatrucha was started by Salvadoran men and women who had fled the civil war and political violence in their country in the 1980s.

Recently, stricter immigration measures have caused an increase of deportations.  In 1993, 2,117 Salvadoran were deported.  In 2003, 5,561.  In 2009, 20,000+. In 2016, 52,000+.  And guess who were included in the deportations?

Those gangs are active and terrorizing the populace.  They run a protection racket and threaten children and young adults with kidnapping or mutilation, if their demands are not met.

Increasing emphasis was placed on the fact the US intervention was one of the principle causes of violence that promoted the exodus from Central America.  And social activist organization filed a lawsuit, American Baptist Churches vs Thornburgh, which resulted in some thousands of asylum cases to be reopened for the Salvadorans and Guatemalans.

The US accommodates the Mexican authorities, by openly discouraging petitioners, by insulting and detaining immigrants at border crossing.  Statistically, in 2008 Mexico had 3,650 requests with 73 granted.  In 2011 it was 7,616 with 107 granted.  In 2013 it was 10,177 with 155 approved, but in 2015, 8,923 were submitted with only 203 approved.


There is a suggestions that NAFTA caused economic hardships for those in Mexico. The farmers’ corn prices were undercut because the US could produce it more cheaply.  I’m from Iowa and I don’t buy this, because there are 2 kinds of corn, sweet corn and field corn.  Sweet corn is what we buy at the grocery store to eat and field corn is used to make ethanol and High Fructose corn syrup.  Maybe field corn can be used to make tortillas, but Mexico produces over 1,300 varieties of maize, which is the traditional ingredient for tortillas.  I don’t think things compute, but I may be missing something.

I think problems may have arisen from the maquiladoras built on the border to manufacture for the US, taking advantage of NAFTA rules.  These attracted young females to work there, from wherever they worked before, maybe farms.  This turned out to be a disaster, because many of the workers were assaulted and killed. (Murder in Mexico is a serious concern).  And then the factories moved to cheaper countries, leaving them maquiladoras empty.


Turning back to the general specifics of asylum.  There are 2 political asylum categories: affirmative asylum and defensive asylum.  If the seeker has entered the country legally, via a visa or work permit, they can go to asylum offices throughout the country and apply for affirmative asylum.  This staff is more social, the staff interviewing the candidate specialize in that area, they are more sensitive to the applicant’s circumstances and can process the case better.  My sense is that this category is pretty rare.

Those who apply at border crossing or have entered the US illegally, apply for defensive asylum.  They present arguments for their asylum petition to prevent deportation.

First contact is with immigration agents who do not have training of knowledge of how to deal with victims of violence.  The standard procedure is to arrest the applicant and schedule a court date to go before a judge.

One immigration lawyer remarked that routinely well-documented, clear case many times are rejected.  He finally realized that Mexico did not want to settle for the US rejecting 98% of the cases, it wanted them all rejected, because it reflects poorly on them.


The Convention of the Rights of the Child maintains that the best interests of a child must be a primary consideration in all administrative and legal proceedings.  The Center of Gender and Refugee Studies at the U of CA, Hastings, found that the US government does not use this standard in its treatment of migrant children, rarely providing assistance or counseling to minors who have been victims of human trafficking and other abuses.

The report state that “some immigration judges have rejected social groups in children’s cases based on size, fearing that approving broadly defined groups will open the proverbial floodgates while not recognizing the establishing social group membership fulfills only one element of an asylum claim.”

Immigration courts have refused to recognize as vulnerable social groups some of the most exposed who ask for protection, including “girls who report their rape to the police,” “youth who oppose gang activity and have reported it to the police,” and “young girls who resisted gang recruitment and witnessed gang crime,” among others.

Demographics are changing.  Between 2012 and 2014, the overall number of unaccompanied adults grew and the percentage of girls rose from 23 – 27%.  The number of children under 14 grew for 17 – 24%.

By law, minors cannot stay in detention centers for more than 72 hours.   They must be transferred to temporary shelters run by the Office of  Refugee Resettlement.  Some areas, especially S. Texas, was having trouble meeting the time requirement due to the government inability to process all of the minors coming in.

The problem in immigration is that it has come political.  The children are detained, they’re put into deportation proceedings because that’s the law, but they’re not deported… because that would have a political cost, and neither the president (nor) the Republicans want to pay it.  They can say what they want, but in practice, the kids stay here.  Over 2012 – 2015, 171,000 kids were detained, but only 7,643 minors were deported.


ONE goal of going through deportation hearings is to buy more time, to get up to two extensions, and even if you don’t or can’t win, the time here is precious.  Things could change in the home country.  And if there are documented relatives in this country, they may be able to take the children, even if the parents are deported.

How can people enter the country legally?  Citizens from several countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico cannot enter the visa lottery.  If they are not sponsored by an employer or if a family member does not petition for them, these people have no other way to come to the US legally.

Since the surge in unaccompanied minors began, and in spite of the (clearly inadequate) efforts of immigration authorities, charges of abuse filed against the Border Patrol and other security agencies, including treatment that could be considered torture, have risen sharply.

When Trump took over, they authorized the hiring of 15,000 new immigration agents and 50 new immigration judges.  That meant by mid-2017, 201 immigration judges would be looking at a backlog of 500,000 pending cases, plus all the new cases generated by the new administration.  And we are building and hiring private agencies to detain immigrants and it looks like that can only grow with the disparity between agents and judges.

Things need to change!!!!