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Vicente Calderon-Personal View Point on-Immigration Reform - Political Football
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Vicente Calderon

Personal View Point on
Immigration Reform - Political Football

On Sunday, May 27, 2017 I read a front-page article in the Fresno Bee Newspaper of yet another tragic and unnecessary deportation order.  Mrs. Maria Barrera, a minister at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Mendota, California, a small farming community in central California, has been ordered to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to begin her deportation process with a one-way ticket to Mexico.

Mrs. Barrera came to the United States in 1989 and settled in Mendota at the age of 22.  She later married her husband Carlos and they now have two children, both born in this country. The family is a well-respected and active member of the Mendota community with no criminal history whatsoever.

I believe strongly and support local, state and federal laws of this country and did so as a 30+ year law enforcement officer. However, there is the “Letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law”. The way the federal government is enforcing the immigration laws is unconstitutional and in violation of the Spirit of the Law. Parents are approached while dropping off their children at schools, at church, business parking lots and at their place of employment. Federal agents enter homes without warrants and without regard to the rights of the residents, thus leaving them in a state of fear, confusion and apprehension. This type of strong arm illegal enforcement creates not only terror, but also produces lack of confidence in law enforcement that results in the increased failure to report crimes and/or criminal activities to law enforcement agencies.

The Latino Community, and specifically the Mexican Community, is experiencing increased police tactics reminiscence of Hitler’s Brown Shirts and Gestapo’s criminal actions of the 1930s and 1940s in Germany where Jews and other minorities were arrested and separated from their families and then deported.  Little or no consideration is given to the negative impact the deportation of one or both parents or other family members has on those children born in the United States and suddenly separated from them.

In 1942, the Bracero Program, officially know as the Mexican Farm Labor Program, and later, in 1951 it became Public Law 78,  was created by Presidential executive order under the belief that due to the Second World War there would be a great shortage of field workers and manual laborers. This program contained safeguards protecting these thousands of imported domestic workers and Braceros. Unfortunately, for the most part, these safeguard regulations and procedures of the program were intentionally and illegally ignored by the employers and greatly benefited especially the farmers from this new and cheap labor force!

The Bracero Program grew out of bi-lateral agreements between Mexico and the United States. The agreements allowed thousands of Mexican men to enter into a contract for employment as a farm worker in this country. These contracts from 1942 to 1964 were short term and required the individuals to return to Mexico after a specified time. However, the individual could return to work in the United States several times but always under contract.

The Bracero Program lacked administrative, compliance and enforcement resources to eliminate abuse of these guest workers by employers as well as being able to ensure that the program was conducted according to the agreement.  However ill run and implemented, it was a start in providing the thousands of farm workers needed across this country.  Understandably, domestic workers did not want to do this work of long hours and poor wages required of farm workers. 

Again, the Bracero Program, with the cooperation of both political parties, could have developed into an immigration reform program that could have met the needs of farmers in this country and the working needs of the workers from Mexico. Sadly, it didn’t.

It is often said that our government moves slowly but this issue has been with us for over 75 years. Since then, each administration has promised to move on this long-standing problem.  Typical of our political gamesmanship, Democrats blame Republicans and Republicans blame the Democrats in an unending cycle for failure to introduce, pass and implement a well-rounded and workable immigration reform bill. Without the input and assistance of each political party there cannot be meaningful immigration reform.

And so it goes. Mexicans are the “Boogie Men” of the citizens of this country. Mexicans are thieves, rapists, lazy, and for the most part, few positive words are written or shown in the main media that deal with the plight of these millions of immigrants that have remained in the United States, raised a family, worked hard and prospered in every state of this country.

Now this present administration is saying that it will deport illegal immigrants that are arrested and who have criminal records. But this has not been the case. As stated earlier, parents are stopped while leaving their children at school, at social events and other public places and asked for proof of citizenship.  Law enforcement agencies run roughshod through predominately Mexican neighborhoods asking for identification and many times enter into yards and homes without warrants or probable cause to check on the resident’s proof of citizenship.

There is an apparent contradiction of actions and ideas here that I believe we, the Mexican and Mexican Americans are somewhat responsible for what is happening to us. Many of our community members have often said and the media quickly reported that the 1980s was the decade of the Latinos, specifically Mexican Americans. Unfortunately, that belief had little substance and was mostly untrue.

 Many years ago, I wrote and commented in the El Puente that ’80s Decade of the Latino did not happen. Mexicans/Latinos participated very minimally in the political process of this country. We had very little impact and change on local, state and national political candidates and to our employment, educational, equal status and representation at all levels. Worse yet, our situation has hardly changed in any meaningful manner.

If there are to be viable and concrete changes in the Bracero Program and the laws and policies that cause civil and criminal harm to us, Mexicans/Latinos must began to exercise our constitutional and civil rights by voting and demanding changes to this undemocratic and unjust system that has been imposed upon many in our communities.

Many years ago, our Grandfather Don Eleuterio used to say “ayudate y te ayudare” Help yourself and I will help you. This holds true even more so today due to the fact that the Latino population is growing in leaps and bounds and becoming more educated. However what good is an education if you don’t use it to improve conditions in our communities. I hear younger people say that ” I did it by myself, no one helped me”. This type of negative and narrow attitude greatly impedes our progress and upward mobility.  Those who say this have no historical idea or concept of the countless struggles our forefathers fought so that we could enjoy the fruits of their labor and sweat.  It is our task to enlighten them.


“Si se puede”
Vicente Calderon

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