U.S. immigration policy has backfired, says Dr. Erasmo Gamboa, associate professor of history at the University of Washington, causing more migrant workers to stay in the U.S. than under the prior Bracero program.
When greater restrictions were applied in 1986 against migration, he
says, the impact was to discourage but not stop undocumented workers from crossing the U.S. border.
Under the Bracero program the workers - documented or not - tended to come to the U.S. to work the fields, then return to Mexico or other Latin American countries during the winter.
"People are no longer going back," he
says, "since it is no longer taken for granted that they can return."Dr. Gamboa
says this has increased the number of families staying and raising their families in the U.S. - and putting increased demand on educational and social services.
The nature of migration has also increased demands on services, he
says.Previously, families tended to migrate first to the border towns in Texas, become accustomed to U.S. life, learn some English, then migrate northward.
Now migrants move immediately to the northern states without any adjustment period.
"In a matter of days, they move to a very different world," Dr. Gamboa
At the same time, fewer Mexican migrant families returning to their homeland has been one reason why the Mexican economy has been falling since the early 1980s.
Consequently, "the Mexican economy is now expelling workers," Dr. Gamboa
says there are three key factors for the massive influx of immigrants into the United States:
The desire of U.S. businesses for cheap labor. U.S. consumers' demand for low-cost food. Immigrants' desire for work.
The positives ultimately outweigh the negatives for U.S. citizens, Dr. Gamboa
Migrant workers "give Americans the lowest food prices in the world," he
says.They also provide low-cost labor in other industries, such as the fast-food industry.Even urban dwellers are hiring immigrants to do things they used to do themselves, such as housework and gardening.Dr. Gamboa
says the U.S. is developing an "immigrant-driven economy," and, given U.S. demographics
such as the low birth rate of white Americans, "the U.S. is likely to face increased labor shortages in low-skill industries."
notes, the U.S. will also be facing labor shortages in skilled occupations over the coming years.
The changes in Hispanic immigration into the U.S., however, have caused more and more children to face increasing hardships, Dr. Gamboa
told the National Migrant Education Conference.This has caused a "reversal of the American Dream."
If the U.S. wants the advantages of an immigrant-driven economy, it must also provide immigrants with hope and opportunity to rise out of poverty, he
"Nothing does more to raise a person's socio-economic status than education," he
challenged educators and government officials to continue to enhance educational opportunities for migrant children, to maintain federal programs promoting English as a second language, and to increase higher-education migrant programs, such as CAMP.He
said migrant education leaders must also help the non-migrant population "to look meaningfully at the migrant population" and understand migrants' plight and potential in U.S. society.Dr. Gamboa
also noted a U.S. Supreme Court decision during World War II that prevented the government from banning the teaching of German language and customs in German-American communities in the U.S.
"Every community has the right to exist and the right to be different, regardless of language and regardless of culture," Dr. Gamboa
encouraged Hispanics to maintain their language and culture while assimilating the new language and knowledge needed to prosper in the U.S.