Mexicali Braceros
Los Angeles Times. American. 1881-

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The history of exclusion of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian communities based on the legal construct of citizenship has shaped the way Americans think of race in the United States.

The history of exclusion of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian  North Americans based on the legal construct of citizenship has shaped the way Americans think of race in the United States. These policies together formed and form an elaborate system designed to exclude and take advantage of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) living in this country.

Immigration policies in the US do three basic things: monitor who comes into the country, make new citizens, and come up with legal reasons to remove people from the region. Today, discussions about immigration focus mainly on the Mexico/US border. These policies together form an elaborate system designed to exclude and take advantage of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) living in this country. The Latinx community is but the latest target of this system.

Latinx people, just like Indigenous people, have been here since before this land became a country. Latinx is not a race, it is an ethnorace; meaning that various people from many races, who speak multiple languages, and have descended from multiple cultures, are Latinx. For all of US history, exclusionary policies have produced racial categories in order to disenfranchise people already living within the United States. Latinx, and the previously used Latino and Hispanic are such categories and should be used with caution.

Latinx is not a race, it is an ethnorace; meaning that various people from many races, who speak multiple languages, and have descended from multiple cultures, are Latinx.

The problem starts in 1790 when George Washington, the first President of the newly formed republic/federation/federal republic/US, signed the 1790 Naturalization Act,which made it impossible for “non-white” people to be considered citizens.  This Act continues to impact equal citizenship rights for BIPOCs in the US. This law was specifically constructed to restrict Black and Indigenous individuals from access to resources at a time in the US history where nearly 2/3 of the land was still under Spanish domain, slavery was legal and widespread, and settlers were rapidly dispossessing indigenous communities from their homes.

Nearly 100 years later and with a new racial target, the Immigration Act of 1882 (better known as the Chinese Exclusion Act) was passed. This marked the first federal law to restrict immigration based on race alone. The Geary Act boosted the Chinese Exclusion Act by adding new demands, such as requiring legal written permission to live in the United States, which made people of Chinese origin deportable. In 1891, this law targeting poor immigrants for exclusion and removal was modified again to include anyone of Asian origin. In 1893 Wong Dep Ken, a Chinese immigrant, became the first person to be deported.

Deporting Asian immigrants failed to adequately uphold the ideals of white supremacy by which the US governs. To further reduce Asian arrivals, a system was constructed in 1924. The Johnson-Reed Act limited the number of immigrants allowed into the country based on a quota determined by the census of 1890. The quota system aimed to increase migration from European countries. Each country received 2% of the total number of nationality-based admissions in the US as there were people of that national origin recorded on the census. As a result, 85.6% of visas were granted to northwestern Europe, 13.3% of visas went to Eastern Europe and Asia, and only 1.1% went to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands. Exempt from this quota system were Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. By limiting the numbers of incoming people, immigration policy aimed to exclude BIPOC from finding a permanent home in the United States. At the time, however, Black, Indigenous, Asian, and White were the only groups in this conversation.

Around here is where Latinx people come into the picture. Let’s start with Mexico for geographical purposes. In 1848 the US invaded Northern Mexico, and after the US-Mexico War, both countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This treaty ceded a lot of land to the United States, and in turn, Mexicans living in the new US territory were to be granted equal citizenship rights under the law. This meant that “Mexican” became legally equal to “white” under the law since 1848. In this way the “non-white” exclusions did not apply to people of Mexican descent.

Latinx people just like Indigenous people have been here since before this land became a country.

Directly after World War I, Mexican labor became extremely desirable for American industries. To continue accessing cheap labor, Mexico was excluded from the quota system. The migration of Latinx people of Mexican descent boomed in the decades after the war, so much so that “Mexican” was a category on the census of 1930. However the Great Depression of the United States brought with it Mexican Repatriation. In the 1930s, both Mexican citizens and American citizens of Mexican ancestry alike were deported in mass numbers regardless of citizenship status. During World War II, Mexican labor was needed once again, and the Bracero program was born in 1942, later extended by the Migrant Labor Agreement of 1951.

If we fast track to today, Latinx immigration brings people from over twenty different countries located south of the US/Mexico border to the United States. Recent studies show that currently only about 50% of Latinx immigrants come from Mexico. However, Latinx immigrants make up less than half of the immigrant population coming to the United States every year

Latinx immigration brings people from over twenty different countries located south of the US/Mexico border to the United States. Recent studies show that today only about 50% of Latinx immigrants come from Mexico.

So immigration policy is not just a Latinx concern. People from all over the world migrate to the United States in search of the American Dream. This dream is not made readily available to BIPOC who endure racism every day as part of the political structure of laws of the United States.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States was adopted in 1776. Only 14 years later, the first policy was made to restrict Black and Indigenous people from full citizenship rights. The first deportation occurred 117 years later, making the Asian population the new target of overtly race-based policies of legal subjugation. Though Americans of Mexican descent were to enjoy citizenship legally throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, as soon as the United States endured hardship, they too became racialized targets for legal exclusion.

History in the United States has been marked by policies manipulated to subdue BIPOC for the benefit of a white supremacist agenda that continues to thrive in law today.

History in the United States has been marked by policies manipulated to subdue BIPOC for the benefit of a white supremacist agenda that continues to thrive in law today. The racial hierarchy of the United States is a political and legal construct, created to limit inclusion and restrict access to resources for BIPOC communities.

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