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The Bracero program and the policy process

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The Bracero program and the policy process
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Rose, John J
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112 leaves : ; 28 cm

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1900 - 1999 ( fast )
Policy sciences ( lcsh )
Public administration -- Decision making -- United States ( lcsh )
Foreign workers, Mexican -- Government policy -- United States ( lcsh )
Foreign workers, Mexican -- Government policy ( fast )
Policy sciences ( fast )
Politics and government ( fast )
Public administration -- Decision making ( fast )
Politics and government -- United States -- 20th century ( lcsh )
United States ( fast )
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 106-112).
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by John J. Rose.

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Full Text
THE BRACERO PROGRAM AND THE POLICY PROCESS
by
John J. Rose
B.A., The American University, 1987
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science
1998


This thesis for the Master of Political Science
degree by
John J. Rose
has been approved
by
Anthony Robinson
Michael Cummings
12-17-97
u


John J. Rose (M.A., Political Science)
r Tie Bracero Program and the Policy Process
r "hesis directed by Assistant Professor Anthony Robinson
ABSTRACT
This thesis addresses questions of change and stability in American politics. I develop a
nodel which attempts to account for periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium in
specific policy areas by analyzing the structures and processes of policymaking. I apply
his model to an intensive case study of the Bracero Program (a temporary labor
mportation program providing Mexican workers to American agriculture) to examine
the models utility in explaining policy development. The analysis presented here
supports the assertion that policy developments in specific issue areas are marked by long
periods of incremental change and equilibrium punctuated by brief periods of rapid and
dramatic change. My findings also suggest that while challengers to the domination of
specific policy areas by elites face numerous constraints, the policymaking process also
presents these challengers with opportunities to reverse their fortunes.
This abstract accurately represents the contents of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
publication.
Signed
Anthony Robinson
in


DEDICATION
In loving memory of Neil Edward Rose (1967-1989).


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I had the help and support of a number of instructors and friends in the preparation of this
thesis. I wish to extend my thanks to the Department of Political Science, including
Glenn Morris and Micheal Cummings and especially my graduate advisor Anthony
Robinson for his continued support, comments, and suggestions. Very special thanks to
Christina Lee for editing the manuscript and giving her love and support throughout this
project. I also gratefully acknowledge the love, encouragement, and support of my
parents Lou and Carol Rose for making this endeavor possible. I also want to thank my
friends John Sermini and Ruth Kang for their technical assistance.


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION
Introduction.......................................................1
Subsystems, The Macro Environment, and Advocates..................5
Subsystems.................................................5
The Macro Environment......................................8
Advocates..................................................9
Factors Contributing to the Creation and Maintenance of Policy Monopolies 11
Creating a Positive Policy Image..........................11
Structuring Participation.................................11
Convergence of Interests and Mutual Support.............. 13
Factors Contributing to the Destruction of Policy Monopolies......14
Successful Challenges to the Dominant Policy Image........14
Conflict Expansion........................................15
Divergence of Interests and Breakdown in Mutual Support...16
Organization of Thesis............................................18
2. THE BRACERO PROGRAM: 1942-1951..........................................19
War and the Pro-Bracero Agenda....................................20
Establishing the Bracero Policy Monopoly..........................26
The IMLA.................................................27
Growers Power...........................................30
Implementation: Growers Power and Administrative Discretion.....35
The Shift to Direct Recruitment..................................41
The Problems with Direct Recruitment.....................48
3. EXPANSION AND INSTITUTIONALIZATION: 1952-1959.........................55
Introduction.....................................................55
Readjustment: The Revival of a Govemment-to-Govemment Program.....57
Catch 22: Illegal Immigration and the INS........................61
The Pressures to Go Easy on Enforcement................62
The Pressures to Do Something About Illegal Immigration.63
The INS Response.........................................65
VI


Conclusion
.72
4. BREAKDOWN AND COLLAPSE: 1960-1964..................................76
Introduction............................................76
Organized Labor.........................................77
The DOLs Response......................................79
The Monopoly Collapses..................................82
Kennedy......................................85
External Factors.............................87
Conclusion..............................................92
5. CONCLUSION.........................................................95
Assessing the Model.....................................95
Epilogue...............................................100
IRCA...................................................101
The American Political System..........................104
BIBLIOGRAPHY.........................................................106
vii


Chapter 1
INTRODUCTION
Does the American political system provide safe haven for privileged interests, or
does it ensure competition among interests, providing opportunities for those on the
losing side to reverse their fortunes? Do mass publics influence elite behavior or do
elites govern with little democratic accountability? These are among the great
questions of democratic theory endlessly debated by political scientists.
Many areas of the American political system appear to provide continuing benefits
to the same groups of privileged elites. Powerful interest groups continue to find
niches in the governmental structure (Browne 1990). The literature in political
science is filled with terms such as: iron triangles, islands of functional power, and
systems of limited participation. All of these terms suggest a structural arrangement
that benefits elites and a lack of interference by broader political forces.
Others suggest that the American political system is undergoing a profound
transformation. A new, more open era of American politics, inaugurated by the
1960s, is inhospitable to such elite structural arrangements. British political scientist
l


Hugh Heclo notes that the proliferation of groups in the American policy process is
making it harder to identify who the dominant actors are (Heclo 1978).
Like other students of American politics, scholars studying elite dominated
structural arrangements note that the American governmental structure is highly
disaggregated. American public policy is primarily the sum of many actors in
numerous decision-making systems organized around discreet programs and issues
(Thurber 1991,319). These decisional systems, or subsystems, as they are termed
here, have grown as the result of two fundamental trends: the expansion in the scope
of government responsibility, and the increasing complexity of public affairs. One
reason these debates have been difficult to resolve is that subsystems can take
fundamentally different forms with vastly divergent consequences. Subsystems may
be characterized by domination by a single interest (policy monopolies), or by
competition among interests (issue networks), or by disintegration in which a policy
monopoly is destroyed or replaced by an issue network.(Meier 1985).
Policy monopolies contain few actors who share a consensus on how a policy is
understood and discussedits policy image. Policy monopolies are successful in
their attempts to exclude opponents from the decision-making process, often framing
issues as matters which are highly complex and technical in an effort to convince
others that outsiders are not qualified to make the decisions. Or, they may argue
2


that the decisions to be made have few social impacts or that these social impacts are
neutral or unavoidable. By excluding outsiders, policy monopolies are able to
enforce a conservative and incremental process. Issue networks, by contrast,
typically involve a much greater diversity of actors and interests. Access to the
policy arena is much easier to obtain and there is often disagreement about the basic
development of policies. Policy development is marked by instability and dramatic
change often takes place in issue networks.
Much of the debate over whether or not the American political system ensures
competition among interests arises from a preoccupation in American political
science with short term analyses of policy dynamics. Snapshot views of public
policy often mislead. Policies can look chaotic and conflictual or stable and
consensual at a single point in time, whereas longrun policy development may
incorporate both features. In their study of several policy arenas, each analyzed over
substantial time periods, Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones found that
developments in each were marked by periods of incremental change and bursts of
dramatic change and that: policy subsystems are continually being created and
destroyed in American politics (Baumgartner and Jones 1993,6).
Thus both sides of the debate have merit. However, not in the same time and in the
same place. Students of the policy process need to develop models that can account
3


for long periods of equilibrium and domination of policy arenas by privileged elites,
and for rapid changes in political outcomes, where entrenched interests find
themselves on the losing side of the battle. Put another way, we need to develop
explanations that can both account for the creation and maintenance of policy
monopolies and for their demise.
This thesis proposes such a model of the policy process. I argue that the
policymaking structure is composed of: (1) subsystems; (2) the macro environment;
and (3) advocates. In addition, there are factors which contribute to the creation,
maintenance, and destruction of policy monopolies. I develop the model in this
chapter and use an intensive case study of the Bracero Program in subsequent
chapters to show how this model corresponds to the programs development.
The Bracero Program was a temporary worker program arranged between the
United States and Mexico to provide labor to American farms. The program began in
1942 under the rationale of filling perceived labor shortages in agriculture during
World War II but was continued until 1964. The development of the Bracero
Program illustrates the creation, maintenance, and collapse of a policy monopoly
governing the importation of Mexican laborers in the U.S. Moreover, I have selected
the Bracero Program as a case study not only for what it tells us about the policy
4


process in general, but also to explore the politics of American immigration policy, a
subject which has received scant attention in the public policy literature.
Subsystems, the Macro Environment and Advocates
Subsystems
In addition to differing in the number of participants, the continuity of access
among them to the policy arena, and degree of consensus, policy monopolies and
issue networks vary across other dimensions as well. As R.A.W. Rhodes and David
Marsh maintain, policy monopolies (or what they call policy communities) and issue
networks also differ by: (1) their frequency of interaction; (2) the nature of the
exchange relationship among participants; (3) the participants resources, and; (4)
the nature of power (Rhodes and Marsh 1992b).
Policy Monopolies.In policy monopolies the frequency of interaction between
participants is continual and persistent. As Smith maintains: the government
agency and the key interests will be constantly involved in the policy process and so
interaction is daily and of high quality (Smith 1993, 62). The nature of the
relationship among participants is marked by an exchange in which each possesses
information, implementation resources, and legitimacy that can be traded for a
5


position in the policy arena and some control over policy. If participants have
resources to exchange with each other, then the nature of interaction is likely to
involve bargaining and negotiation over the direction of policy. Moreover, if there is
more than one interest group, they will not be competing with each other, but
instead represent different interests within the policy arena. In describing British
agricultural policy, Marsh and Rhodes observe that: Food producers, farmers and
doctors were involved in the food policy community but a single organization
represented each group (Rhodes and Marsh 1992a, 112). Lastly, power in policy
monopolies is positive-sum in that it involves the mutual expansion of power as each
participant increases its influence over policy by excluding other non-involved
participants from decision-making.
Issue Networks. In issue networks interaction among participants is erratic. The
degree and importance of interaction is constantly changing and who has contact
with whom will vary. The nature of relationships also differ from those found in
policy monopolies. For instance, although some interest groups have resources, they
are likely to be limited. Most are likely to have little information to exchange and
little control over the implementation of policy and are thus forced into overt
lobbying activities. Moreover, because government agencies in issue networks have
limited means to control access to the policy arena, they cannot guarantee that an
6


interest group will or will not have a role in the policy process. The lack of resources
that participants in issue networks possess affects the nature of interaction among
them. If interests groups lack resources to shape policy then their interaction with
government agencies will, at best, be based on consultation. This consultation
typically involves a simple exchange of information that is unlikely to have a
significant effect on policy outcomes (Jordan and Richardson 1987). Finally, power
in issue networks is unequal. Because participants cannot typically control access to
the policy area and mutually enhance each others power, there are winners and losers
in policy disputes.
What I have described are ideal types at the opposite ends of a continuum. In a
given policy arena, relationships may not exactly conform to the dimensions
described here and so the possible varieties of subsystems are much larger than the
above passages suggest. Nevertheless, these dimensions have important empirical
relevance and where one dimension is identified in a policy arena another of its kind
is likely to exist. For instance, if a policy subsystem has a small number of
participants, then it will probably exhibit a greater degree of consensus than another
subsystem with a large number of participants.
7


The Macro Environment
Even the tightest policy monopolies do not exist in a vacuum and all subsystems
are, to a degree, affected by factors external to it (Redford 1969; Sabatier in Sabatier
and Jenkins-Smith 1993; Kingdon 1995). Such external factors include the state of
the economy, presidential and congressional elections, changes in public opinion,
demographic shifts, technological change, and focusing events such as wars and
crises that absorb the attention of a wide range of policymakers. This is not an
exhaustive list and I could go further, as Paul Sabatier has done, and identify
elements of the macro environment which are relatively stable over time and thus
contribute to policy stability and those which exhibit fluctuations, presenting
opportunities for change (Sabatier in Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993). Stable
elements include the basic distribution of natural resources in society and
fundamental cultural values, while more dynamic elements include such things as
technological changes and congressional and presidential elections. More
importantly, the macro environment represents a set of policy constraints and
opportunities. As John Kingdon notes: The new Reagan administration, for
example, set agendas all over town, making some things possible that were
8


impossible before, making other things out of the question, and creating a receptivity
to some ideas but not to others (Kingdon 1995, 145).
Advocates
The defining characteristic of advocates or policy entrepreneurs, as they are
sometimes called, is their willingness to invest their resourcestime, energy,
reputation, and sometimes moneyin the hope of a fixture return (Kingdon 1995
122). Advocates are found throughout the political system, in government and
private institutions, and inside and outside of subsystems. They are individuals who
push for their conceptions of policy problems and proposals in a number of ways and
in a variety of settings.
For the purposes of this thesis I examine how advocates link the macro environment
to policy subsystems. They may accomplish this by taking advantage of changes in
public opinion, congressional and presidential elections, and turnover in government
administrative personnel to promote their agendas in policy subsystems. At a more
fimdamental level, advocates link subsystems to the macro environment through a
process of problem definition and by tying solutions (proposals, policies, and
programs) to problems. Problems are social conditions which are perceived to stem
from human or government sources or are amenable to their solutions (Stone 1989).
9


An earthquake is not a public policy problem because it cannot be prevented or
avoided by government action. Building code violations which make the damage
from an earthquake more severe than necessary are public policy problems, however,
since government action can solve them, at least theoretically.
Once a condition is perceived as a problem it can rise quickly on the government
agenda. The dominant conception of poverty in America in the 1950s was as a
natural, unavoidable condition. Poverty was viewed as the result an individuals own
deficiencies. In the 1960s, however, poverty came to be viewed as something
amenable to government action and the issue rose quickly on the government agenda
(Majone 1989). Once a condition has been defined as a problem and has emerged on
the national agenda, advocates attempt to ensure that their own solutions are the ones
adopted. Thus, as focusing events, economic and demographic changes, and so
forth, alter elite and public perceptions of problems and conditions, advocates come
to play a central role in problem definition and the linking of solutions to problems.
10


Factors Contrihntinp to the Construction and Maintenance of Policy Monopolies
Creating a Positive Policy Image
Just as they attempt to link their solutions to public problems, advocates in a policy
monopoly, (or those attempting to create one), work to construct a powerful
supporting idea associated with the policy and the institutional arrangement
responsible for policymaking. These buttressing policy ideas are generally connected
to core political values which can be communicated directly and simply through
image and rhetoric (Edelman 1989). Such values include progress, fairness,
participation, independence from foreign domination, economic growthvalues no
one taken seriously in the political system can contest. Once government officials
and interest groups can convince others that their policy serves these lofty goals or
represents the solution to long-standing problems such as crime, these actors move to
develop a policy monopoly.
Structuring Participation
The creation of a positive policy image is closely linked with structuring
participation. Actors in a policy monopoly move to establish a positive policy image
that elicits only support or indifference from those not involved, thereby insuring
ll


their continued noninvolvement. There is, however, another aspect to participation
in a policy monopoly: formal rules which discourage the participation of outsiders.
One way that elites attempt to do this is to place their policies under the authority of
institutions which share the same policy image or are otherwise friendly to the
concerns and interests of these elites. In their efforts to exclude outsiders, some
policy monopolies go beyond mere argumentation. Martin Smith states that for a
policy monopoly to remain closed one government agency must take the lead over
others. In Britain, both the Department of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture
were involved... but Health was prepared to accept the leadership of Agriculture
(Smith 1993,59). Such efforts stem from the recognition, articulated by E.E.
Schattschneider, that organization is the mobilization of bias (Schattschneider,
1960,70). This observation symbolizes the strong tendency of institutions to favor
some groups and ideas over others.
Policy images of a given issue vary among institutions for reasons which may be
explained by different organizational norms, operational styles, economic situations,
political culture, constituencies, and so forth. As Baumgartner and Jones note: An
agricultural committee in Congress is more likely to view pesticides as a way of
increasing farmers profits, while an environmental group is likely to focus on the
negative health effects of the same issue (Baumgartner and Jones 1993,31). So
12


policy images are accepted or rejected depending on the institution in which they are
raised.
Convergence of Interests and Mutual Support
Political scientists have long noted the dilemma of differential intensities of
preference (Dahl 1961). Those with a vested interest in a policy will always be more
active than those who perceive themselves as having nothing to gain from
involvement in it. Policy monopolies remain stable for substantial periods of time in
part because of the convergence of powerful interests, all of whom stand to benefit
from a particular policy or program. Institutions maintain a network of mutual
support in an effort to pursue collective interests. This point is illustrated by the
classic example of an iron triangle policy monopoly as described by Arthur Maass
in his study of river projects in 1949. Maass reports a unity of interests in the iron
triangle in which the Army Corp of Engineers, local political actors, congressional
committees, and major interest groups all collaborated toward developing local river
projects (Maass 1951). All of these actors had something to gain from this policy
and from each other. Elected officials were able to deliver tangible benefits to their
constituents, interest groups from the construction industry benefitted economically,
13


and the Army Corp of Engineers enjoyed substantial political support and increased
funding.
Each institution supports the others. Interest groups help finance the campaigns
and provide information and other resources to congressional allies. Lawmakers
draft legislation to benefit interest groups and provide political support for
government agencies in hearings. Government agencies target and implement
policies to benefit interest groups and the constituents of their congressional allies.
Factors Contributing to the Destruction of Policy Monopolies
Successful Challenges to the Dominant Policy Image
Any given public policy can be associated with many contending images and the
dominant public understanding of issues may change over time. Where actors in a
policy monopoly argue that their policy promotes widely held core political values
such as economic growth and progress, opponents may argue that it is wasteful,
harms the environment, or is otherwise undesirable. Just as actors in policy
monopolies attempt to connect their policies to core political values and
communicate them simply and directly through symbols and rhetoric, opponents
often do the same. When advocates are successful in redefining issues, they alter
14


intensities of preference in the political system. People, political leaders, government
agencies, and private institutions that had once shown no interest in a particular
question become involved for some reason. That reason is typically a new
understanding of the nature of the policy involved.
Conflict Expansion
As I have noted earlier, different institutions hold different policy images. Given
the dilemma of intensities of preference and the variations among institutions in
policy images, competition between winners and losers in the original policy dispute
gives incentives for the losers to enlarge the scope of conflict. Federalism and the
separation of powers disaggregate the American governmental structure and create
multiple policy venues, giving issue expanders numerous opportunities to attract
different policymakers into the dispute. As losers attempt to redefine the basic
dimensions of a policy conflict, and bring in previously uninvolved citizens, they try
to appeal to a changing roster of participants. Issue expanders may try to mobilize
larger and larger constituencies on their behalf, as Roger Cobb and Charles Elder
argue, by expanding the conflict from specialists in policy subsystems to the
informed public and finally to the general public. (Cobb and Elder, 1983). Or, they
may go venue shopping. This latter strategy relies less on mass mobilization (in
15


which the mass media may play an important role) and more on the presentation of
the policy image and search for a more receptive political venue. As issue expanders
attempt to attract a different group of policy makers, they must explain why that
issue is worthy of consideration in that venue. In the process, they often attract the
attention of authoritative policymakers in government. If this different group of
poliymakers takes up the issue and can exert its influence in the policy arena,
(through, for example, jurisdictional changes or institutional reorganizations) then
they will contribute to the destruction of a policy monopoly (see Baumgartner,
Jones, and Rosentiehl 1996 on changes in congressional committee jurisdictions
which have contributed to a more fluid and open policy process).
Divergence of Interests and Breakdown in Mutual Support
Lastly, policy monopolies can break down if the original interests diverge and the
system of mutual support collapses. Such breakdowns can be attributed to a number
of sources. Conflicts within subsystems such as intra or interagency disputes or
jurisdictional changes and institutional reorganizations can alter relations within a
policy monopoly and erode its consensus. Policy monopolies can be subject to the
process of conflict expansion as new institutions attempt to redirect policy, altering
relations within the policy monopoly in the process. In their studies of the nuclear
16


power policy monopoly, John Campbell and Elizabeth Rolph demonstrate how
several factors brought on a political conflict that originated in the subsystem and
expanded outward. The technical staff of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)
began to question the agencys safety decisions, feeling that government funds were
disproportionately going to the development of larger and newer reactors designs
with insufficient attention to safety questions (Campbell 1988). In their efforts to
ensure a larger share of the budgetary pie for safety questions, these scientists
enlisted the support of members of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, which
began to apply more stringent regulations for the licensing of nuclear power
facilities. When the AEC attempted to close off licensing hearings to
environmentalists and the Union of Concerned Scientists, the joint committee
responded by taking an increasingly hostile stance to the industry (Rolph 1979).
These events set in motion the collapse of the nuclear power policy monopoly. The
federal courts, Congress, and state and local governments all challenged the policy
monopoly. In 1977 Congress abolished the joint committee, which was replaced by
numerous congressional committees claiming jurisdiction over the issue. The
destruction of a policy monopoly may begin as an internal crisis which develops to
the point that it attracts elements from the larger political system.
17


Organization of Thesis
Chapter Two examines the early development of the Bracero Program, focusing on the
construction of a policy monopoly to administer it and the maintenance of that policy
monopoly in the early years of the program. The expansion and entrenchment of the
program and the maintenance of the policy monopoly is the focus of chapter three.
Chapter four looks at the breakdown in the Bracero Program policy monopoly and the
programs termination in 1964. Chapter five concludes with an evaluation of the models
utility in accounting for the changes in the program and a brief analysis of Mexican labor
and the contemporary policy process.
18


CHAPTER 2
THE BRACERO PROGRAM: 1942-1951
On September 29,1942, five hundred farm workers from Mexico arrived in
Stockton, California. These workers were the first installment of a wartime
emergency program designed to fill the declared labor shortage in agriculture. Over
the next twenty-two years, growers and ranchers in twenty-four states contracted
five million braceros in what turned out to be the largest foreign worker program
in U.S. history. The term bracero comes from the Spanish word for arm, brazo,
and can be loosely translated in this context as farmhand.
This chapter examines the life of the Bracero Program from its formulation as an
emergency wartime measure in 1942 to 1947 (during which time it was governed by
bilateral treaties between the U.S. and Mexico), and through a period of direct
recruitment of bracero labor by U.S. growers lasting from 1947 to 1951. The first
section examines the role advocates and the macro environment in the development
of the pro-bracero agenda and the U.S. governments response to this agenda. In the
second section I discuss some of the events which lead to the signing of the
International Migratory Labor Agreement (IMLA) with Mexico and the contents and
administration of that agreement. The second section continues with a look at the
early stages of the creation of the bracero policy monopoly, focusing on the impact
19


of growers influence on this monopoly and their efforts to structure participation in
it. The third section examines the impact of administrative discretion on the early
stages of the programs implementation. The final section covers the period lasting
from 1947 to 1951. In this period growers gain institutionalized access to the bracero
policy monopoly and the leading pro-bracero elements within it share a consensus
over the contours labor contracting shifts policy as it shifts from a govemment-to-
govemment system to one based on direct recruitment. The new system of
contracting, however, produced unstable policy outcomes and pressures return to an
intergovernmental arrangement.
War and the Pro-Bracero Agenda
This first section examines the interaction of advocates with the macro
environment in the development of the pro-bracero agenda. I look at how growers
requests to import Mexican labor became a political agenda linked to war
mobilization. More specifically, I discuss growers attempts to promote their
agenda by the creation of a positive policy image of the importation Mexican labor
linked to patriotism and I briefly discuss the pressure tactics growers used to
promote it. Despite the governments initial denial to permit the contracting of
Mexican labor, I argue that there were openings for the pro-bracero agenda created
20


by the governments past experience with Mexican labor, World War Two era shifts
in immigration policy authority, and the differing institutional interests of some the
agencys involved in immigration policy. These openings existed before the
government reversed its position and decided to allow Mexican contract labor into
the country following the Japanese attack on Pearl. In describing the events which
lead to the signing of the IMLAI illustrate how the State Departments institutional
interests in Mexican labor contracting influenced its perception of the issue and the
agencys earliest involvement in the program. I then describe the efforts of growers
to obtain favorable receptions to their agenda from the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Justice.
Early in 1940, vegetable and cotton growers in California, Texas, and Arizona
sounded the alarm of impending labor shortages. Reminiscent of their pleas for
access to Mexican farm workers in the post-World War I period, farm employers in a
number of Southwestern states in 1941 formally requested permission from the
Immigration and naturalization Service (INS) to import Mexicans to cultivate and
harvest crops. The INS reported the request to its parent agency, the Department of
Labor (DOL) which denied it since it was found that there was sufficient domestic
labor to meet the demand (Krichefsky 1956,4).
21


The following year, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the U.S. into
World War II, the official attitude toward Mexican contract labor changed. While
some officials at the DOL continued to insist that there was an adequate supply of
domestic agricultural labor, national security concerns over immigration lead
president Roosevelt to shift statutory authority over immigration matters to the
Department of Justice (where the INS was relocated) as part of a wartime
reorganization of the executive branch (Briggs 1991). Officials at the Department of
Justice, in contrast to their counterparts in the DOL, were relatively unconcerned
about the labor market effects of the introduction of Mexican contract workers and
took a much more expansive view of the issue (Ibid). Justice Department officials
readily agreed to a meeting with representatives of the USDA and growers on the
possibility of establishing a contract labor system and also requested the State
Department to probe the Mexican attitude on the issue (Craig 1971).
While the pro-bracero agenda benefited from reception it received from Agriculture
and Justice, the advantages of a cheap, controllable, and essentially captive labor
force were evident to a range of policymakers. These officials saw the utility of
expanding the supply of foreign labor to meet economic needs and of contracting it
dining economic downturns or when it posed unacceptable social costs. Mexicans
had been considered an ideal source of labor by government policymakers since the
22


early 1900s due to the vicinity of Mexico and the ability to expand and contract the
labor supply as the need arose (Calavita in Cornelius et al 1994 ed.) In the case of
the contract worker, not only did he arrive as an adult male laborer, but he could be
sent home upon completion of his contract. Furthermore, by definition the contract
laborers status placed him outside the free labor market. As war industries reduced
the number of domestic workers available for the civilian labor market, a contract
labor system could the fill the gap with workers tied to agriculture by law.
While government attitudes were moving in favor of the pro-bracero agenda, the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor acted as a focusing event which galvanized
growers into action (See Kingdon 1995 on the role of focusing events in the policy
process). In the wake of war mobilization following the Pearl Harbor attack and with
farmers facing the possibility of a labor shortage for the harvest of crops in 1942,
growers and their allies stepped up their pressure. Growers used their considerable
political influence to persuade government agencies and congressional allies from
Southwestern states to support their cause. For instance, California Governor Culbert
Olson telegrammed the secretaries of State, Labor, and Agriculture, warning that:
without a substantial number of Mexicans, the situation is certain to be disastrous
for the entire victory program, despite our united efforts in the mobilization of youth
and city dwellers for emergency farm work (New York Times, March 25,1942,12).
23


Growers representatives and allies went beyond simply arguing that contract
workers needed to fill labor shortages to tying their agenda to patriotism. Growers
skillfully were linked their agenda for a cheap, controllable labor source to the
changing macro environment by tying their solution, labor importation, to perceived
labor shortages brought on by World War Two. In an effort to ensure that their
solution was adopted, these advocates drew on core political values such as
patriotism, as Olsons remarks indicate
The presentation of this positive policy image combined with growers pressure
tactics paid off. In April of 1942, under pressure from California beet growers, the
INS (an agency traditionally friendly to growers concerns) formed a committee
bringing together top officials from the Department of Justice (the INS parent
agency), the War Manpower Commission, and the Departments of Labor, State, and
Agriculture to study the possibility of launching a labor importation program (Craig
1971,39-40). The Special Committee formulated the outlines of a temporary worker
program. Informal negotiations with Mexican officials were also underway, starting
with the request of Attorney General Francis Biddle for the State Department to
approach Mexico officially on the bracero matter.
State was slow to act on the request, fearful that a labor importation program with
Mexico would engender discrimination and exploitation of Mexican nationals by
24


U.S. employers and thereby damage the fledging Good Neighbor Policy (Craig
1971,40). However, the Attorney Generals request combined with the plan worked
out by the Special Committee, convinced State Department officials to undertake
formal meetings with their Mexican counterparts in order to approve the Special
Committees plan. Mexican officials strongly opposed anything other than a formal,
intergovernmental agreement. This position was strongly influenced by their
experience with a previous labor importation program begun in 1917 and terminated
in the1930s when American authorities forcibly expelled Mexican workers in the
wake of the Great Depression.
In July of 1942, Agricultural Secretary Claude Wicker, as head of the U.S.
delegation attending the Inter-American Conference on Agriculture in Mexico City,
succeeded in getting Mexican officials to agree to a trial run after promising them
that the U.S. would vigorously enforce the provisions of an agreement. Shortly after
that meeting formal negotiations were begun. By July of that year and with little
public attention in America, the countries signed the IMLA. Although revised in
1943 and amended several times during its five year history, the IMLA would serve
as the cornerstone of the Mexican labor importation program from 1942 to 1947.
The response of the State Department to Biddles request illustrates that States
view of labor importation was conditioned by its institutional interest in smooth
25


foreign relations. As such, State was somewhat at odds with the staunchest
government proponents of bracero labor in the policy monopoly; the USDA and the
INS. However, because a small group of federal agencies took the lead in drawing up
plans to import Mexican labor and worked closely together, dissension among them
was limited. As this thesis develops I will discuss in greater detail the factors shaping
the various agencies perceptions of issues relating to Mexican contract labor and
how these perceptions affected the process of agenda change and their participation
in the bracero policy monopoly.
Establishing the Bracero Policy Monopoly
This section continues with a focus on the early development of the bracero policy
monopoly. It is divided in two parts. The fist part briefly describes the terms of the
IMLA, its administration, and its impact on American agriculture. The second part
examines the power of agricultural interests over farm labor and the efforts of
growers representatives to influence the program, especially their successful
attempts to structure participation in it. Pro-bracero advocates, aware of the
complexity of the program and the multiple agency jurisdictions affected by it,
attempted to place authority for contracting policy in those agencies most closely
allied to their agenda such as the INS and the Department of Agriculture.
26


The IMLA
The agreement that was arrived at in 1942, and that served as the blueprint for
subsequent agreements, established that braceros were not to be paid less than
domestic laborers performing similar workand in no case were to be paid less than
30 cents an hourand specified that piece rates be calculated to allow the average
bracero to earn at least the minimum hourly wage. At the insistence of Mexican
negotiators, a subsistence wage of three dollars per day was to be paid to braceros
who were unemployed for more than 25% of the contract period; for those who were
unemployed for less than 25% of the period, Mexican officials insisted on the
payment of whatever unemployment benefits U.S. farm workers received. Mexican
negotiators were evidently unaware that domestic farm workers enjoyed no
unemployment benefits. In addition, braceros were allowed to elect representatives
to discuss complaints with employers, as long as these discussions did not involve
attempts to improve the terms of the contract, which were non-negotiable.
Employers who used illegal immigrant labor were prohibited from contracting
braceros. Finally, Texas employers were excluded from eligibility for braceros, as
Mexican negotiators cited a history of discrimination and abuse of Mexican workers
in that state.
27


The bracero contract began with requests from agricultural employers in the U.S.
for a given number of Mexican workers for a specified time. After the United States
Employment Service (The USES was relocated from the Department of Labor to the
Department of Agriculture for the duration of this period) certified that a shortage
of labor at prevailing wages existed, an order for braceros was placed with
officials in Mexico City. Mexican officials selected bracero candidates from regions
around the country, who were then transferred to recruitment centers in the interior
of Mexico. Representatives from both countries made selections from this pool and
processed workers for distribution to their employers in the U.S. Transportation
from the Mexican recruiting centers to places of employment were paid by the U.S.
government, to be partially reimbursed by the employer. The actual work contract
during this early period was technically between the Farm Security Agency (FSA),
located in the Department of Agriculture, and the individual braceros who were then
subcontracted to employers. The Cooperative Employment Agreement, which
constituted the contract between the FSA and employers, bound employers to the
terms of the international agreement with Mexico and stipulated that employers
make five dollar contribution to the transportation of each of their braceros.
From 1942 to 1947, the USDA had primary authority for administering the
Bracero Program, but its operation involved a complex of interagency
28


responsibilities. The IMLA was negotiated primarily by the State Department; the
FSA-and later the War Food Administration-did the actual recruiting and
contracting; the USES was charged with determining shortages of labor and
prevailing wages; and the INS oversaw the admission and return of braceros.
The wartime bracero program provided over 219,000 Mexican workers to
employers in twenty four states (Calavita 1992,21). Although this figure constituted
only 2.7 % of the wage labor force in agriculture, braceros were an vital component
of agriculture in some states and for some crops (Ibid). Approximately 94 percent of
all braceros were employed in Texas (whose employers were permitted to contract
braceros in 1952), California, New Mexico Arizona, and Arkansas (Garcia 1980,
40). During 1945, California growers employed 63% of the total brcacero work
force, and in the offseason months from January to April 90% of the braceros went
to California (Craig 1971,170). The Bracero work force was concentrated in sugar
beets, fruits, cotton, and vegetables, and in some areas comprised the majority of
unskilled labor for these crops (Presidents Commission on Migratory Labor 1951,
38-40).
29


Growers Power
On hearing of the governments plans to import Mexican contract workers, U.S.
farm labor representatives denounced it as a subsidy to corporate agriculture that
would depress farm wages and weaken the prospects to organize the farm labor
movement (Craig 1971,137). How did growers secure the importation of Mexican
contract workers in the face of this opposition and manage to have the program
extended beyond the war? I argue that growers were substantially more politically
powerful than their farm labor opponents and that growers used their power to not
only influence the early development of policy but also to successfully exclude their
opponents from the bracero policy monopoly.
Political Scientist Richard Craig maintains that in the 1942 agreement agricultural
interests appear to have benefited substantially vis-a-vis their labor counterparts
(Craig 1971,46) This is an understatement as labor was virtually excluded from the
process One reason labors voice was not heard was that organized farm labor had
traditionally been weak, especially in the Southwest following the depression, and
due to efforts by growers to band together to fight labor activism (Garcia 1980,20).
Efforts to organize were hindered by an impoverished work force spread across vast
30


territories and unprotected by federal labor legislation and not allied with big labor
(Hawley 1966).
In contrast, agricultural interests were a powerful political force enjoying
preponderant influence over agricultural policy. Kenneth Finegold and Theda
Skocpol argue that, after World War I, the USDA was an island of state strength in
an ocean of weakness (Skocpol and Finegold 1982,271). As they continue,
however, they state that the New Deal administrative interventions in agriculture
inadvertently strengthened the American Farm Bureau and gave the group the final
increments of electoral and administrative advantage that it needed to capture
preponderant influence over post-1936 federal agricultural policies (Ibid). Theodore
Lowi describes agricultural policy as a feudal pattern of self government marked
by the private expropriation of public authority (Lowi 1979,68). Lowi describes
ten different agricultural policy area systems in which, There is an immense
capacity in each,... .once created, to maintain itself and resist any representation
except its own(Ibid, 74).
In addition, growers associations were often powerful political forces, especially in
comparison to organized farm labor. The conservative American Farm Bureau (AFB)
boasted a membership of about 1.5 million in the early 1940s and had a close
relationship with numerous Congressmen and some government agencies, including
31


the USDA (Garcia 1980,26-27). Grant McConnell maintains that the AFB engaged
in a form of logrolling. He reports that while 50 % of the AFBs membership was
in the Midwest, the group had little trouble in obtaining support for Mexican
contract labor from its Midwestern constituents as long as its Southwestern members
returned the favor by supporting price supports for Midwestern farmers (McConell
1953).
The power of agricultural groups also surfaced at the electoral level. With a small
group of Southwestern states constituting the bulk of bracero use, the program
primarily delivered concentrated benefits to growers in those states. Thus,
Southwestern growers and their allies in Congress could be counted on as staunch
supporters of the program.
In Craigs pluralistic account of the Bracero Program, the 1942 bracero accord
represented an excellent example of group interaction and compromise within the
political process (Craig 1971, 52). In reality, the negotiation process was more
exclusive then Craig suggests. Even if one counts state actors as groups, the only
ones represented in the American side of the negotiation process were the handful of
federal agencies mentioned earlier, agribusiness, and their congressional
representatives. For the American side, the outcome of the negotiation process was
32


marked by the accommodation of forces, all supporting bracero labor to various
degrees.
Once agreement was reached, federal agencies began to divide up the
administrative tasks of the program amongst themselves. Because the program was
first conceived as an agricultural emergency that was declared during the war as a
result of farm labor shortages, pro-bracero advocates managed to get Congress to
place primary responsibility for the program with the farmer friendly USDA.
Given the complexity of the program and the multiple agency jurisdictions affected
by it, however, this division included several other agencies. From the start, such
state actors had a profound impact on how the policy monopoly would take shape as
I hope the following discussion of the FSA will demonstrate.
Executive agencies and agricultural interests conceived, formulated, and
implemented the program entirely on their own, Congress, however, did not oppose
it. Instead, within a few months lawmakers officially endorsed the wartime
emergency program. The intergovernmental form of the program outlived World
War II by more than two years and provided growers, at government expense and
under government contract, with an uninterrupted supply of cheap and captive labor.
With the passage of Public Law 45 in April of 1943, Congress quietly authorized the
program.
33


The law established the terms of the wartime program that endured until 1948,
acceding to most of the demands of powerful groups such as the AFB and the
National Grange, and in the process moved the program even closer to a growers
dream of heaven as one writer described it (Anderson 1963,10). While agricultural
interests obviously supported the importation of Mexican labor, they opposed the
rules and regulations contained in the International Migratory Labor Agreement as
representing an onerous burden on them. Growers also realized that once standards
were established to protect foreign labor, similar standards could be set up for
domestic workers as well. From the outset, they wanted the program to be modeled
along the lines of the 1917 program, which involved the direct recruitment of
Mexican labor by growers and a minimum of government regulation. Shortly after
news of the international agreement reached growers, the AFB, the National Grange,
and the National Council of Farmers Cooperatives issued a joint statement
requesting that the rules and regulations in the agreement be eased (U.S. Congress,
House, Farm Labor Program, 1943, Hearings before the Subcommittee of the
Committee on Appropriations, 78th Cong. 1st,sess., February 17,1943, 89).
While growers initially failed in their efforts to deregulate the program, they
nevertheless scored an early victory. The first direct indication of the power growers
were to have in the programs evolution came one month before passage of PL 45
34


with the transfer of the FSAs responsibility for the program to the War Food
Administration, a decidedly friendlier agency. Growers had always been wary of
the FSA, which they saw as a social reform agency supported by New Deal liberals
(Kirstein 1973;Calavita 1992). Growers also complained that the agency stalled
around in providing bracero labor and had opposed the importation of Mexican
labor from the outset (Tomasek, 1957,5). When the FSA began extending certain
provisions of the Bracero Programsuch as wage and work guaranteesto
domestic farm workers, accusations that it was engaging in socialist experiments
reached a new pitch. In March 1943, in response to continued pressure from
growers, the program was removed from the FSA. Pro-bracero influence on the
congressional proceedings over PL 45 included prohibition against the FSA practice
of using federal money to recruit and transport domestic workers to areas with labor
shortages before importing Braceros. PL 45 also stated explicitly that domestic
migrants workers were not to be covered by the protections included in the
international agreement for braceros.
Implementation: Growers Power and Administrative Discretion
In the third section of this chapter I argue that the influence of growers on the
program, combined with the administrative discretion exercised by its federal
35


agencies, resulted in a de facto deregulation of the program. Deregulation at the
implementation level lead to widespread violations of the IMLA by growers and
precipitated a move to a more privatized policy with the introduction of direct
recruitment by growers.
Why did Congress seem content to let federal bureaucracies run the Bracero
Program? Congress has increasingly delegated authority to federal bureaucracies in
problematic and controversial policy areas (Fiorina 1977, Rosenbloom 1983). Social
scientist Kitty Calavita maintains that this observation is consistent with the
administrative discretion given to federal agencies in the Bracero Program given the
irresolvable quality of immigration conflicts (the economic utility of illegal
immigrant labor versus the states need to control illegal immigration) and the
electoral pressures confronting members of Congress (Calavita 1992,39).
Another interpretation of the discretion afforded to federal agencies in the bracero
policy monopoly is that pro-bracero advocates in Congress were aware that the
agencies in charge of administering it were understaffed and underfunded, and that
these agencies were likely to adopt hands-off enforcement policies that would
benefit growers. At any rate, a considerable amount of administrative discretion
allowed the INS and other agencies such as the USES to pursue their interests while
tailoring the program to growers needs.
36


The implementation of the program helped growers and the INS pursue their
interests. In particular, Congress gave the INS wide latitude in exercising
administrative discretion. PL 45, for example, gave the Immigration Commissioner
the authority to admit contract labor on his own terms for such a time and under
such conditions as he shall prescribe thus waiving the prohibition against contract
labor contained in the Anti Alien Contract Labor Law dating back to 1885 [57
Stat.pp.70-73,sec 5(g)], This provision offered a temporary reprieve for growers who
resented having to go through the Mexican government for their workers.
As interpreted by the INS, the provision allowed employers to recruit Mexican
workers at the border. Braceros were admitted directly by the INS, bypassing the
recruiting centers in Mexico City altogether. Besides allowing growers to choose
their own workers, acting on this interpretation cut the time consumed in
government processing and transportation, something both growers and the
underfunded and understaffed INS appreciated.
Border recruitment had the effect of opening up the program to Texas employers
who were specifically excluded by the international agreement. Under pressure from
the State Department, direct recruitment by Texas employers was stopped only
weeks before it began. However, the episode indicates the impact that administrative
37


discretion would have on the operation of the Bracero Program and the role of
grower interests in shaping administrative practice.
This episode also highlights the differing concerns of the various institutions of the
state (or policy images) and how those concerns would effect the implementation of
the program. While the State Department urged immigration officials to terminate
border recruitment because of its institutional interest in smooth international
relations, influential members of Congress from border states applauded the policy.
According to one authority on the Bracero Program, a senior immigration official
sent a confidential memo to his counterpart in the State Department claiming that if
direct border recruitment was terminated, a good many members of Congress
would be on Immigrations neck (Scruggs 1960, 252).
Other federal agencies with responsibility for administering the program also used
the discretion conferred to them to make the program amenable to agricultural
interests. The USES, an agency noted for its sympathy toward growers concerns
(Garcia 1980), was responsible for certifying labor shortages and estimating
prevailing wages. PL 45 required that growers offer employment to domestic
workers at prevailing wages before being certified to employ braceros. In practice,
this provision was rendered virtually meaningless by the USES decentralizing the
responsibility for estimating prevailing wages in the State Extension Services. The
38


State Extension Services were consistently allied with local Farm Bureaus. In
California that it was reported that the County Extension Agent ...functions as an
employee of organized farm groups., .and is therefore of doubtful impartiality
(Fisher 1953,108).
The typical procedure for setting wages was for growers to meet at the beginning of
each season, determine the wages they were willing to pay, and then to inform the
appropriate state officials (Garcia). The prevailing wage thus came to mean the
wage that prevails in the context of a non-competitive labor market. While growers
determined the prevailing wage early in the programs development, they would
begin to exercise a more direct role in its next period, when, absent an international
treaty, growers directly recruited bracero labor.
In addition to administrative arrangements that bypassed certain requirements of
the bilateral agreement, employers often simply ignored contract provisions they
found inconvenient. Wages did not consistently meet the 30 cents per hour
minimum, hours actually worked were frequently incorrectly recorded, payments
were delayed, and housing and food failed to meet the minimum standard stipulated
by the international agreement (Craig 1971; Kirstein 1973; Garcia 1980;Calavita
1992).
39


Violations of the terms of the IMLA were widespread on the part of employers.
According to historian Juan Ramon Garcia, the agency charged with the
responsibility for enforcing contract agreements between braceros and employers,
the Department of Labor (DOL), lacked the resources or will to enforce contracts or
investigate violations. Garcia reports that, by 1951 the Department of Labor was
responsible for covering thirty thousand growers and other employers who had
contracted braceros, while the number of compliance men had only grown to fifty
(Garcia 1980,53). Moreover, in several instances the Border Patrol (a division of the
INS) offered DOL compliance officers lists of employers caught using illegal
immigrant labor, but the DOL continued to allow these employers to use bracero
workers, a direct violation of the international agreement (Ibid, 52).
. The abuse of the program was spurred on by several factors. First, agencies such
as the INS, the USES and the DOL lacked the resources to investigate charges of
abuse occurring throughout farms and ranches in the vast Southwest. Second, these
agencies lacked the political will to vigorously enforce contract provisions. The INS,
for instance, was not a captive agency, but one that worked to make the program
attractive to growers under the belief that a generous Bracero Program would reduce
the use of illegal immigrants and thus help the agency fulfill its mandate to control
illegal immigration. Lastly, organized labor and other critics of the program such as
40


church groups and Hispanic-American civic organizations were excluded from the
decision-making process and unable to affect policy.
The Shift to Direct Recruitment
At a critical juncture in the programs evolution, various elements of the bracero
policy monopoly made a concerted effort to keep the program alive. On October
24,1945, the Secretary of Agriculture, members of Congress from bracero using
states, and growers representatives appeared before the House Committee on
Appropriations, urging an extension of the program, even though the war was by
now over. Absent the wartime rationale, growers argued that domestic workers were
unable to do the stoop labor of agriculture, and that braceros continued to be a
vital part of the agricultural economy. In this manner they managed to keep the
wartime Bracero Program alive long after the war had ended.
While a combination of grower influence and administrative discretion resulted in a
de facto deregulation of the program at the implementation level, growers and their
allies were also working to deregulate official policy. The second postwar extension
41


of the program provided an opportunity for growers to reshape it on more favorable
terms. Pro-bracero advocates dominated the congressional proceedings over
extension and they shared a belief in making the program amenable to growers
interests. This consensus spurred the shift from an intergovernmental program to
direct recruitment and underscored the degree to which growers had gained
institutional access to policy area.
Yet the shift to direct recruitment produced costly and unstable outcomes. Program
abuses engendered growing criticism from domestic sources while direct recruitment
strained U.S.-Mexican relations. The most significant voice for a change in policy,
however, were the growers themselves who bore the cost of an increasingly
unpredictable supply of labor unwittingly produced by direct recruitment. As the
problems associated with direct recruitment became more apparent so did the
pressures to return to an intergovernmental system of recruiting. The return to such
a system is the initial focus of Chapter Three.
Two years after the end of World War n, Congress officially declared an end to the
wartime labor importation program. Public Law 40, passed on April 28, 1947,
provided that the Bracero Program may be continued up to and including December
31,1947, and thereafter shall be liquidated within thirty days (Congressional
42


Record 1947,3206). Agricultural employers, alarmed at the impending deadline, and
warning of continued labor shortages, swamped the INS with petitions to extend the
stay of their braceros and to allow for additional admissions. Despite the
unambiguous termination of the program by Congress two months earlier, on
February 21,1948, the State Department arranged a new accord with Mexico and
labor importations resumed
Pro-bracero advocates dominated the debate over PL 40, making the focus of
congressional consideration not the laws termination but the provision for extending
it (Calavita 1993,26). Only a small minority of congressmen sympathetic to the
interests of organized labor opposed PL 40 New legislation was introduced to give
the Department of Agriculture and the INS the authority to admit foreign contract
labor, even in the absence of a congressionally sanctioned program. Congress,
however, adjourned before the bill was acted on.
Although the State Department opposed direct recruitment because of a concern
that such an arrangement would lead to abuse of the program by growers and thus
hurt U.S.-Mexican relations, the agency succumbed to pressure from the USDA and
arranged a new agreement with Mexico (Kirstein 1973). The new postwar accords
(there were several accords dated: March 25 and April 2,1947; February 21,1948;
and August 1,1949) were similar to their wartime predecessors in general principles,
43


however, they differed in several key respects. Most notably, the U.S. government
was no longer the contractor and no longer responsible for contract fulfillment. The
contractor was now the employer or his representative. Previously, the two
governments served as recruiting agents, in the period from 1948 to 1951, however,
U.S. farm employers, in cooperation with Mexican and American authorities,
performed this task. Growers still had to obtain certification from the USES, which
was returned to the DOL in 1949. Finally, the employer bore the full costs of
transportation from the point of contract to the U.S. and back to Mexico.
The contract between the bracero and the employer also differed substantially from
its predecessor. Absent in the postwar agreement was a minimum hourly wage for
braceros, a minimum piece rate guarantee (the dominant method of payment for
bracero labor) and the previous unemployment pay of three dollars per day.
Additionally, no formal contract compliance mechanism was established, although
the DOL was given the authority to investigate contract violations. Finally,
employers were now required to pay a twenty-five dollar performance bond to be
forfeited should they or the bracero fail to fulfill the contract.
The change from a govemment-to government program to direct recruitment was
spurred on by several factors. First, Mexicos bargaining advantage eroded as the
44


war came to a close. Second, growers associations undertook a persistent lobbying
effort for the government to adopt the direct recruitment policy, while labor lacked
the political power to challenge growers, especially in Congress (Craig 1971,
Scruggs 1960).
The contents of the new agreements reveal the power and influence of agricultural
interests in shaping the program. Growers had long sought a more direct source of
recruitment that would reduce the red tape and costs of paying for recruiting
Mexican workers from the interior of Mexico. Employers were pleased that the new
agreement contained little in the way of worker protections although they strongly
opposed the inclusion of a performance bond, arguing that many braceros failed to
fulfill their entire contract obligations; that they would often work for a short while,
then skip to another job in agriculture or industry or return to Mexico.
The State Departments opposition to direct recruitment reveal the limits of the
consensus in bracero policy monopoly, yet the congressional proceedings indicate
not only the power of pro bracero forces over their opponents but also the degree of
unity and cooperation between growers, key executive agencies, and Congress in
advancing the policy of importating of Mexican labor. The efforts of this policy
monopoly to structure participation in the administration of the Bracero Program are
45


clearly evident in hearings held in December 1947 before the House Committee on
Agriculture.
In describing the purpose of the hearings, the Committee Chair stated,
the hearing is purely informal, just for the purpose of having
those who are directly concerned with this problem as users of
labor to present their views to the committee and to the
government officials who are most directly concerned with it,
having in mind the thought that by talking the matter over we
might be able to resolve some of the problems that admittedly do
exist in connection with foreign labor (U.S. Congress. House
Committee on Agriculture, 1947,30).
The meeting served to bring together growers and federal administrators, and to de
facto sanction the program through administrative action. The hearing opened with
the declaration that the interest of this committee is primarily that of doing what it
can to make available an ample labor supply for the producers of crops which
require the foreign labor, the stoop type of labor (Ibid, 30). From the outset of the
hearing, the INS Commissioner, Watson Miller, assured the committee that his
agency recognized the need for Mexican labor and that after consultations with
growers the agency had drawn up plans to continue to admit Mexican contract
laborers.
46


Having established that bracero importations would continue administratively
beyond PL 40s expiration date, the remainder of the hearing focused on the details
of the plan and its acceptability to growers. Miller assured the committee chair and
the growers representatives present that his agency would not rush these people
[braceros] back at an undue rate despite PL 40s requirement that braceros leave by
January 30,1948 (Ibid, 32). Although some committee members opposed this
expansion of administrative power, and may have agreed with Representative
Granger of Utah when he complained that this is just another way to break down
the immigration laws of the United States.., they were in the distinct minority (Ibid,
35).
Seven months after the congressional deadline for the Bracero Program had lapsed,
Congress passed Public Law 893 with little discussion and no public hearings. The
law officially transferred overall responsibility for the program from the Department
of Agriculture to the USES which was now authorized to direct, supervise,
coordinate, and provide transportation for the program. One year later, this law also
expired, once again leaving the program to operate completely outside of any formal
congressional oversight or endorsement (INS, I andNReporter 1955, 5). The
transfer of the Department of Agricultures responsibilities to another grower
friendly agency, the USES, was undertaken under the reasoning that with the
47


agricultural emergency brought on by the war now over, statutory authority of the
program should be shifted to the USES (Calavita 1992,113).
The Problems With Direct Recruitment
Despite the relative ease with which pro-bracero forces obtained their objectives,
the actual implementation of the program during this period created destabilizing
pressures which undermined the programs longrun stability. Direct recruitment
encouraged illegal immigration, poor enforcement of bracero contracts, desertions of
braceros from their employers, or skips as they were known, deteriorating U.S.
Mexican relations, and growing criticism of the program itself from organized labor,
Mexican officials, and others.
Now that growers and their representatives contracted directly with braceros at
recruitment centers, and were responsible for the cost of transportation, the long-
standing demand that recruitment centers be set up at the border, instead of in the
interior of Mexico, intensified. This had always been a hotly contested issue in
negotiations and one on which Mexican officials were rarely willing to compromise.
Mexican officials felt that a mass exodus at their northern border would deplete that
rich agricultural region of seasonal labor.
48


Moreover, Mexican officials maintained that with the number of bracero
applicants greatly exceeding the number of available slots, illegal immigration
would increase with border recruitment, as many of those not selected as braceros
would simply attempt to cross the border into the U.S. illegally. Mexican officials
also worried that border recruitment would create public health dangers and a
potentially explosive social situation as bracero applicants massed in border towns.
On the spot legalization or drying out the wetbacks by the INS made
recruitment much easier for growers, however, it did not reduce the number of
illegal immigrants but instead increased it as word spread among Mexicans that the
way to get a bracero contract was to cross the border illegally. In 1950, fewer than
20,000 braceros were imported, while over 96,000 illegal aliens were paroled to
local farmers (Galarza 1964,63).
With the U.S. government no longer held directly accountable for the enforcement
of contracts, direct recruitment also had the effect of minimizing the already lax
enforcement of contract provisions. A secret U.S. Embassy report in 1950 concluded
that employers had committed mass violations with regard to recruiting, wages,
general hiring conditions, and the utilization of non-contract [read illegal] labor,
and that federal agencies were not enforcing certain wage requirements and
assumed a partial attitude in favor of agribusiness (Kirstein 1973,72-73). While the
49


USES still had responsibility for determining labor shortages before braceros could
be contracted, and the DOL had authority over investigating contract violations, a
hands-off policy prevailed.
While the USES and its parent agency the DOL took a laissez faire attitude
toward administering the program during this period, the INS actively worked to
make the program agreeable to agricultural interests. The Border Patrol was
notoriously reluctant to apprehend and deport illegal farm workers during periods of
peak labor demand such as during harvests. In 1949, the Idaho State Employment
Service reported, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service
recognizes the need for farm workers in Idaho ancL.withholds its search and
deportation until such times as there is not a shortage of farm workers (Presidents
Commission 1951,221). Similar reports from the chief of the Border Patrol in
Tuscon, Arizona to the Presidents Commission on Migratory Labor and the Chief of
the Border Patrol Willard Kelly reveal that the laxity of INS enforcement policies
were not confined to the idiosyncracies of regional enforcement but instead appeared
to be official policy through much of the 1940s and early 1950s (Kirstein 1973,102).
In 1951, President Trumans Commission on Migratory Labor published its
report, a comprehensive look at the status of migrant labor in U.S. society that also
focused considerable attention on the Bracero Program. The Presidents
50


Commission, was formed at the behest of the National Farm Unions pleas for an
investigation into the problems facing migrant workers, was highly critical of the
Bracero Program (for details on Presidents Commission see Kirstein 1973).
Among the well-supported charges the commission leveled against the Bracero
Program was that it depressed the wages of domestic agricultural workers. The
commission also stated that contrary to the rationale underlying growers pleas for
imported labor, increased mechanization and subsequent increases in productivity
resulted in a decreased need for farm labor. The commission charged that
employers had violated many of their contractual obligations, and that the INS
lacked any legal basis for its legalization of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
(President Trumans Commission on Migratory Labor 1951).
Although Congress, growers, and the agencies involved in administering the
Bracero Program paid little attention to the commissions findings, the dramatic
El Paso incident of October 16 and 17,1948, underscored the instabilities of
direct recruitment and the need to return to a govemment-to-govemment
arrangement to keep a policy of labor importation intact. As Calavita noted,
A combination of factorsincluding the continued refusal of
Mexico to allow Texas employers to contract braceros, the lack of
a formal border recruitment system, and a virtual employer boycott
on recruiting braceros from the interior of Mexicohad resulted
in the piling up of thousands of hopeful braceros in border towns,
particularly at Ciudad Juarez. (Calavita 1992,29-30).
51


On October 1,1948, Mexican officials, in an effort to avoid an impending crisis,
allowed U.S. growers to recruit 2,000 workers from the overcrowded town. Before
the contracting could begin, thousands of desperate workers stormed the border.
After an initial attempt to stop the influx, the INS simply opened the border for the
weekend, paroling the workers to growers through the Texas Employment Service.
Mexican officials were understandably outraged and temporarily voided the entire
international agreement and it took eight months before a new one was completed.
During the interim, however, the Bracero Program continued, operated unilaterally
by the DOL, the INS and the USES, and outside any congressional oversight or
endorsement.
While the El Paso incident constituted a short-lived focusing event, according to
documents unearthed by Peter Kirstein, a meeting was held in the summer of 1948 in
which the State Department, the INS and the DOL discussed the merits of and open
border. Kirstein concludes from the records of these meetings that the State
Department and the White House opposed an open border but that the INS and DOL
agreed that an open border was a possible policy option ...provided that the influx
was manageable and easily apportioned among fanners and growers (Kirstein 1973,
68).
52


Although the Bracero Program in the era of direct recruitment was tailor-made to
the demands of employers, it exacted a costly outcome for growers that also
threatened to undermine the program (Craig 1971, 55). Given the lax enforcement of
wages and working conditions provisions, and no meaningful possibility for
collective bargaining, one of the few recourses open to dissatisfied braceros was
desertion. According to the Presidents Commission, desertions, or skips, were
estimated to run as high as 50% in some areas (Presidents Commission 1951,46).
With employers required to pay a twenty-five dollar performance bond for each
bracero, to be repaid when the bracero completed his contract, desertions exacted a
direct financial cost on growers and made them the leading proponents for a change
in policy. Moreover, the appalling working and living conditions that produced
braceros discontent held the potential to produce the kind of diplomatic fallout that
could threaten the program altogether.
Faced with growing criticism from organized labor and Mexican officials,
worsening diplomatic relations, the instabilities of direct recruitment, lax contract
protections, and the cost of skips, the status of the program was in jeopardy. With the
outbreak of the Korean War and growers renewed calls for more Mexican labor to
meet wartime needs, Mexican negotiators gave their U.S. counterparts an ultimatum
at a conference in Mexico City. Unless a bill was introduced in Congress to
53


reestablish government sponsorship of the Bracero Program, Mexico would
terminate the bilateral agreement. Following the Mexico City conference, key pro-
bracero advocates in Congress introduced such a bill.
The INS, growers, and congressional allies of the Bracero Program could afford to
ignore the charges leveled at the program from organized labor and the relatively
powerless Presidents Commission. The problems encountered with the direct
recruitment system such as skips and growing diplomatic tensions, however, hurt
their own interests and the longrun stability of the program. Maintaining the policy
monopoly meant stabilizing the program while in the process preventing the
interference of outside forces.
54


CHAPTER 3
EXPANSION AND INSTITUTIONALIZATION: 1952-1959
Introduction
From 1952 to 1959 the program reached its peak. The average number of braceros
admitted during this period was ten times higher than the number admitted during
the wartime program of 1942-1947. After 1952 the number of braceros rose
steadily, reaching more than 445,000 in 1956 and exceeding 400,000 for the rest of
the decade (Congressional Research Service 1980,65). This expansion was made
possible by the stabilization of the program following the return of a govemment-to-
govemment system. Pro-bracero advocates stabilized and institutionalized the
contract labor system with the signing of a new international agreement with Mexico
and the passage of Public Law 78. Although periodically modified slightly, PL 78,
served as the basis for the program from 1952 until its demise in 1964. The relative
ease with which pro-bracero advocates achieved success in the official policy arena
is underscored by the fact that during the period of 1952 to 1959, the law was
extended four times, each time with relative ease and little debate.
55


The programs growth and entrenchment was masked, however, by the growing
conflict between the INS and the DOL over the direction of policy. This conflict
took root in this period and became foil blown in next period. The period of
expansion and stability of the program was punctuated by a brief period lasting a
few weeks in 1954 when the U.S. unilaterally recruited braceros following an
impasse in negotiations with Mexico. This policy was quickly terminated when the
U.S. Comptroller General announced that funds appropriated for PL 78 could not be
used for unilateral recruitment.
The first part of this chapter focuses on how pro-bracero advocates achieved
success in the official policy arena. Next, I examine the conflicting pressures
confronting the INS with illegal immigration and the strategy developed by the INS
to deal with these pressures. This strategy involved the expansion and entrenchment
of the Bracero Program and the INS taking the lead in policy-making in the bracero
policy monopoly. I look at how an expanded bracero program served the convergent
interests of the INS and growers and I examine the system of mutual support which
evolved between them. I briefly discuss some of the factors which helped the INS
implement this strategy. Finally, I look at the DOLs reaction to the INS strategy, a
reaction which would have a profound impact on the program and the policy
monopoly.
56


Readjustment: The Revival of a Govemment-to-Govemment Program
Congressman Poage (D-Texas) and Senator Ellander (D-Louisiana) introduced
legislation in 1952 designed to formalize and stabilize the labor importation system.
Hearings on the bill began in March, and by June, Congress had passed Public Law
78, adding Title V to the Agricultural Act of 1949. PL 78 for the first time explicitly
authorized the importation of contract labor for agriculture, officially voiding the
prohibition against foreign contract labor that had existed since the passage of the
Anti-Alien Contract Labor Law in 1885. Pro-bracero advocates achieved then-
legislative agenda partly because, as I will demonstrate, they structured participation
in the policy-making process, effectively excluding their opponents.
In response to pressure from Mexican officials and the inherent unpredictability of
direct recruitment, the U.S. government was again made the official contractor of
bracero labor, and hence technically the guarantor of the contracts. PL78 further
required that before braceros could be imported the Secretary of Labor must certify
(1) that a labor shortage in agriculture existed; (2) that the importation would have
no adverse effect on domestic farm labor; and (3) that the employer requesting
braceros would make an effort to recruit domestic labor at comparable wages. In
addition, braceros were to be paid the prevailing wage of the area and employers
of illegal labor were to be ineligible to receive braceros.
57


The new agreement provided for recruitment centers in the interior of Mexico, as
before, but supplemented them with border reception centers where baceros were
distributed to employers in the U.S. Like the previous govemment-to-govemment
agreement, braceros had the right to elect candidates to represent them but they
could not alter the terms of the contract because all negotiations were the exclusive
authority of U.S. and Mexican government officials. At Mexicos insistence,
braceros were not to be used as strike breakers or to replace striking workers.
Finally, following intense pressure from the Texas Cotton Producers Association,
Poage, and others, that state became eligible to contract bracero labor.
Noticeably absent from the legislation were the recommendations of the
Presidents Commission whose final report was submitted as the hearings on PL 78
were taking place. PL 78 provided no guidelines for determining what constituted a
labor shortage or how prevailing wages were to be set. It did not include any
fines or criminal penalties against the employment of illegal immigrants, the latter of
which the Presidents Commission insisted was critical to the reduction of illegal
immigration and the elimination of substandard wages and working conditions.
Several factors help to explain how pro-bracero advocates succeeded in obtaining a
continuation of the program on terms favorable to them. First, pro-bracero advocates
biased the congressional proceedings over PL 78 from the outset. They were clever
58


in introducing the legislation as an amendment to the Agriculture Act. This ensured
that it was routed through the agricultural committees in the Senate and House of
Representatives, whose respective chairs, Ellander and Poage, were aggressive allies
of agribusiness and among the leading pro-bracero advocates in Congress. Moreover,
in the Senate Agriculture Committee Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minnesota) was
the only opponent of the program. Bracero critics pointed out that this committee
assignment was in violation of the Congressional Reorganization Act of 1946 which
specified that all bills having to do with the regulation of foreign contract labor
must be referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Senate
Committee on Labor and Public Welfare (Lyon, 1954,259). In addition, the only
members of Congress who received invitations for the 1951 Mexico City conference
from the State Department where Poage and Ellander, setting the stage for their
domination of the issue in Congress (Lyon 1954, 318-319). Periodic attempts were
made to transfer the Bracero Program to the Labor Committees in Congress, but they
were blocked following fierce opposition from the powerful Agricultural
Committees and their farm block constituents.
Secondly, while organized labor staunchly opposed the entrenchment of the
program, arguing that in the absence of more specific provisions to protect domestic
labor the program would repeat the abuses of the past, few liberal Democrats spoke
59


out against the bill. Craig maintains that representatives of organized labor were
poorly prepared for hostile treatment they received from the pro-bracero dominated
agricultural committees in Congress and that, witnesses testifying in support of the
program were generally well prepared and businesslike in their presentations; while
in contrast, opponents of the program were poorly organized and tactically
awkward (Craig 1971,90-91). Agribusiness, however, vehemently supported it. The
large growers of the powerful American Farm Bureau lobbied strongly for the bill at
every stage in the legislative process (Craig 1971,148).
Third, organized farm labor lacked the political power to challenge the bracero
policy monopoly. The weakness of organized farm labor stemmed partly from the
effects of the contract labor program itself. The long-standing difficulties of
organizing an impoverished work force spread across vast territories and unprotected
by federal labor laws were compounded by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of
foreign laborers who by law were denied the right to negotiate with their employers.
The National Farm Labor Union (NFLU), for instance, faced off against growers in
the 1940s, before they were defeated by the DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation. This defeat
was made possible by the importation of braceros who were sent through the
NFLUs 20-mile picket line. The effectively crippled labor movement possessed
little real power when bracero recruitment was at its peak.
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Catch-22: Illegal Immigration and the INS
The contradictions the MS faced with illegal immigration amounted to a Catch-22.
On the one hand, the agency was pressured by interests such as growers who
benefited from illegal immigration to go easy on enforcement and not interrupt the
supply of cheap illegal immigrant labor. On the other hand, the pressure to live up to
its institutional mandate to enforce the nations immigration laws and control illegal
immigration meant that the INS pursue vigorous enforcement policies, especially in
the face of rapidly growing illegal immigration. The INS found a way out of these
contradictions through a strategy which entailed an expansion of the Bracero
Program in a manner which pleased growers, the primary employers of illegal aliens
at the time. The programs expansion and entrenchment then allowed the agency to
pursue its mandate to control illegal immigration. The INS took the lead among
federal agencies in the bracero policy monopoly because it needed to be the principle
administrative force within the program to make this strategy work. To understand
why the INS undertook this strategy it is first necessary to more fully understand the
contradictions facing the agency.
61


The Pressures to Go Easy on Enforcement
Growers and their allies in Congress actively worked to prevent the INS from
adopting vigorous enforcement policies. Any efforts to interfere with the supply of
illegal labor were met with protests from growers and their representatives. For
example, in February 1950 when the Border Patrol increased its monthly
apprehensions by 30%, Texas fanners launched a counterattack. Growers in the Rio
Grande Valley of Texas called the Border Patrol a Gestapo Outfit. Representative
Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) who himself came from a wealthy family of Rio Grande
Valley growers, addressed the floor of Congress following the raids and insisted on a
full-fledged investigation of INS tactics (New York Times, March 28,34). Within a
few weeks of Bentsens floor speech, the campaign was terminated.
Congressional representatives of growers interests were successful in limiting the
effectiveness of the Border Patrol. When apprehensions of undocumented aliens
tripled from 1943 tol944, Congress responded by eliminating over 100 positions
from the Border Patrol (Calavita, 1992,36). Representatives from Texas, with its
huge concentration of illegal immigrants, spearheaded a drive in 1952 to reduce
Border Patrol appropriations in spite of the fact that INS figures revealed that the
number of illegal immigrants vastly exceeded the number of legal braceros
(Congressional Record, 1952,2200).
62


In 1951, Border Patrol chief Willard Kelly told the House Agriculture Committee
that although it was a strained construction, the INS had the authority to allow
illegal aliens to remain in the U.S. Poage, Vice Chair of the committee, made it clear
that not only would the committee tolerate such an apparent distortion of the law,
but that it was counting on it (U.S. Congress. House Committee on Agriculture 1951,
89-90)
For its the INS, as mentioned in the previous chapter, was reluctant to interfere
with the farm labor supply and shied away from vigorous enforcement measures.
Immigration Commissioner Watson Miller even told the same committee four years
earlier that it was the duty of the agency to protect valuable and necessary crops
(U.S. Congress. House Committee on Agriculture, 1947 36).
The Pressures to Do Something About Illegal Immigration
The lax enforcement of the immigration laws contributed to the dramatic rise in
illegal immigration in the 1940s and early 1950s and pressure from other
elements in the political system to do something to control illegal immigration.
According to the INS, the agency apprehended 182,986 undocumented aliens in
1947 (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Annnual Report 1959, 54).
For 1953 this figure had increased to 865,318 (Ibid, 54). The Presidents
63


Commission concluded that, the wetback [illegal immigrant] traffic has reached
such proportions in volume and in subsequent chaos, it should not be neglected
anymore (Presidents Commission 1951, 87-88).
The commissions findings on illegal immigration triggered an onslaught of
attention from the media on the subject and renewed attacks on illegal
immigration from organized labor. Government officials joined the chorus.
Officials from the State Department, the DOL, and The Department of Justice all
warned that the problem had exceeded the capacity of the government to deal
with it and that illegal immigrants were no longer confined to farm employment
along the border but had moved into the interior of the United States and into
industrial jobs (Ibid, 48-49). In 1954, Eisenhower appointed General Joseph
Swing as Immigration Commissioner. Swings comments before the Senate
Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization were indicative of this new
alarm over the perils of illegal immigration:
The problem is so much larger... They [illegal immigrants] are
doing great harm to our economic situation and industry...In the
interior of the country there are thousands who came over as
itinerant farm hands. They very soon learn our ways and our
customs, and they infiltrate. They go into industry...
( U.S. Congress. Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization of the
Committee of the Judiciary. 1954,4)
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The new alarm over illegal migration was fed by the Cold War and McCarthyism.
The notion that an unprotected border allowed easy access to the U.S. for spies and
other subversives quickly took hold. Senator Pat McCarren, co-sponsor of the
McCarren-Walter Act (comprehensive legislation passed in 1952 that overhauled
immigration policy for Eastern Hemisphere entrants) went so far as to say that
communists and spies actually posed as farm workers and went back and forth across
the border at will (New York Times, May 3,1954,12). When hysteria over the Cold
War fused with the wetback problem, the pressure to do something reached a
new pitch.
The INS Response
Faced with well-publicized perils of illegal immigration on the one hand and the
economic utility of illegal immigration on the other, The INS under Swings
direction undertook a massive roundup of illegal aliens in the Southwest while
expanding the Bracero Program and fashioning it to fit growers demands. Prior to
Operation Wetback, as the roundup was called, and the expansion of the Bracero
Program, the INS had succumbed to the pressures to go easy on enforcement and
had payed the price. In the early 1950s, critics had even proposed dismantling the
ineffective Border Patrol and replacing it with an army unit. In response to its critics
65


the INS engaged in highly erratic and selective enforcement activities that were
largely symbolic efforts designed to make agency look like it was doing something
without interfering with the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.
In the Summer of 1954, Swing initiated a sweeping military-style operation
designed to rid the nation of the wetback menace. Operation Wetback began in
California and moved across the Southwest. Swing enlisted the support of local law
enforcement officials and growers, promising the latter during extensive meetings
with them that his agency would substitute illegal immigrants with braceros and that
the enforcement drive would be uniform and thus eliminate competition between
those who used legal labor and employers who relied on cheaper illegal immigrants.
Swing and his agency, however, went beyond simply replacing illegal workers with
braceros. To persuade growers to employ braceros the INS tailored the program to
make it attractive to growers.
Tailoring the Program to Growers Interests. For growers, the Bracero Program had
a number of advantages over the employment of illegal aliens. First, braceros were a
captive labor force. The long hours of work, sporadic employment, and arduous
working conditions found in agricultural production made the retention of workers
difficult. Illegal aliens were desperate but they were also mobile. The bracero, in
66


contrast, was confined by law to an agricultural employer or to an employers
association.
The captivity of bracero labor allowed growers to make full use of the piece rate
system of labor in which workers are only paid for the actual task performed as
opposed to payment of an hourly wage. Piece rates maximized profitability in the
face of unpredictable labor needs. As researcher Henry Anderson describes it:
they [growers] want enough workers to meet any conceivable
contingency....Under the piece rate system of payment which
prevails in most harvests, it is of no disadvantage to growers if
there are so many workers each only works half the time. Labor
costs are exactly the same as if half that many workers work full
time (Anderson, 1963, p.12).
Operating outside the free labor system, contracted for short periods of time, and
delivered to specific employers as the need arose, braceros provided an important
element of stability and predictability into the largely haphazard process of
agricultural production.
Having substituted braceros for illegal immigrants and thus greatly reduced illegal
immigration, the INS rounded up skips and deported subversive braceros as part of
its enforcement efforts and also to tailor the program to growers needs by enhancing
employers control of bracero labor. Rounding up skips was in part a service to
growers because the captive status of bracero labor had to be maintained to make
67


bracero labor predictable. Braceros rights to organize and make demands on their
employers were already severely constrained by the terms of the international
agreement. Moreover, as Calavita maintains, The role of the Immigration Service in
investigating complaints by foremen and growers, and its ability to deport anyone
suspected of subversive tendencies, eroded whatever rights were theoretically left to
these farm workers (Calavita 1992, 79). Although there were very few communists
or communists sympathizers among the bracero labor force, even according to INS
accounts, the effect of the INS policy of rounding up subversives and agitators was
to control bracero activism and inject another element of control in the program
(Cited in Calavita 1992,78-79).
The INS issued laminated 1-100 cards partly to assist farmers. The I-100 was
issued to braceros at the end of their contracts and designated them as special or
skilled key men as well as satisfactory, meaning that they had completed their
contract without deserting and the employer was satisfied with their performance. If
a bracero was unsatisfactory or a skip, a record was made of it and no I-100 card
was issued. All designations were made by employers. The agency was able to
successfully argue before Congress that workers holding 1-100 cards were not being
recruited, which required under international agreement that they be processed in
Mexico, but that they were being recontracted. Workers recontracted could bypass
68


the recruitment centers in the interior of Mexico and go to border reception centers
before being admitted into the U.S. The I-100 card thus reduced the red tape of
recruiting and processing workers in Mexico and gave growers a more direct role in
the recruitment process, enhancing their control over the bracero labor force by
improving their ability to select who would have work for them and weeding out
agitators.
For growers the INS strategy worked. A public opinion survey of ranchers, growers
and others affected by Operation Wetback conducted by the INS in 1957 revealed
their unanimous appreciation for replacing illegal aliens with braceros(U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service, Public Opinion Survey, Southwest Region,
August 23, 1957, 12). Not surprisingly, efforts to purge the Bracero Program from
agitators received excellent cooperation from employers (Quoted in Calavita
1992, 78). In regard to the 1-100 card system, the Agriculture Producers Labor
Committee told its members in a newsletter that, We feel that this is just another
fine example of the splendid cooperation we receive from the U.S. Immigration
Department (Agricultural Producers Labor Committee, Newsletter, August 27,
1954, p.3).
The INS Benefits. Satisfying growers was only one half of the INS strategy. The
other half involved tailoring the program to fit the agencys needs given the dilemma
69


it faced. For its part, the INS benefited substantially from its strategy. To make that
strategy work it took the lead in policy innovation within the bracero policy
monopoly. The INS aggressively soldsuch innovations as the I-100 card and, more
generally, the advantages of bracero labor to growers. The INS used the
administrative discretion afforded to it by Congress to tailor the program to growers
and the agencys needs. The benefits to the agency were substantial to the point that
it pushed them even when other agencies in the policy monopoly, such as the State
Department and the DOL opposed innovations such as the I-100 as amounting to an
employer blacklist.
The INS gained substantially from the expansion of the Bracero Program and its
new commitment to enforcing the immigration laws. Operation Wetback, for
instance, was declared an unqualified success by Swing. According to the INS
Annual Report, over one million apprehensions were made in fiscal year 1954, most
of them from Operation Wetback (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service,
Annual Report, 1955,9). Swing was true to his word in replacing illegal aliens with
braceros. In 1953 only 201,380 braceros were contracted, but by 1956 the had
number reached, 445,197 (U.S. Congress. House Subcommittee on Equipment,
Supplies and Manpower of the Committee on Agriculture, 1960,417).
70


Congress applauded the successful efforts of the INS to regain control of the
border and increased the agencys budget for the first time in over a decade {New
York Times, June 23,1954, p.35). In the aftermath of Operation Wetback, the
Assistant Commissioner of the Southwest concluded, public opinion toward the
Border Patrol has become increasingly favorable...We have gained considerably in
prestige (U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Public Opinion Survey,
Southwest Region, August 23,1957, p.4).
In the new, decidedly aggressive posture, the agency took in the detection and
deportation of illegal workers following the success of Operation Wetback, the
apprehension of skips and subversives became part of the agencys regular
enforcement duties. After Operation Wetback and the corresponding expansion of
the Bracero Program, skips made up a large part of the illegals to be apprehended.
The elimination of subversives fit well with the priority the agency assigned to
enforcing the McCarren-Walter Acts provisions which excluded subversive
aliens.
The 1-100 card system also helped the agency realize its own interests. Because I-
100 cards were issued only upon departure, it reduced the number of braceros who
remained in the United States after the completion of their contracts. In addition,
processing braceros with I-100 cards at inspection centers was a perfunctory activity,
71


making the task easier for the overextended agency and allowing the agency to spend
more time processing new recruits. The advantages of the I-100 card became more
important as the number of braceros grew and growers came to depend on the cards.
The agency found it needed to process workers quickly to meet growers labor
needs. Finally, before being issued 1-100 cards, braceros were subject to FBI and
CIA background checks, helping the agency weed out subversives.
Conclusion
The objectives the INS and growers could not achieve in official policy arena
were realized through the agencys implementation of its responsibilities in the
program under PL 78. The INS and its parent agency, the Department of Justice,
exercised power in the program through its control over the conditions of entries
and departures. Statutory authority for the program, combined with the
administrative discretion afforded to the INS, allowed the agency to shape the
program to growers and its own interests. Administrative inventions such as the I-
100 card, for instance, which enhanced the power of growers in the recruitment
process and eroded the govemment-to-govemment recruitment provisions of the
international agreement, were made possible through the flexibility the agency was
granted in fulfilling its responsibilities in implementing the program.
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The height of Bracero Program witnessed the institutionalization of the
relationship between the INS and growers in the policy monopoly. This consensual
relationship was based on the convergent interests of the INS and growers in a
generous Bracero Program and in a system of mutual support in which growers
accepted the INS offer to substitute illegal labor with bracers. The INS worked to
tailor the program to grower interests and growers and their congressional allies in
turn gave their support to the agency. Bargaining and an exchange of resources
defined the type of interaction and the relationship between actors. Growers gained
a position in the policy monopoly through their political power and the bargaining
advantage they enjoyed in their ability to opt out of the program by returning to the
use of illegal labor. Finally, growers had the resources to implement policy including
the recruitment of bracero labor through growers associations.
The policy monopoly during this period effectively excluded the participation of
outsiders in the program. When the problems associated with direct recruitment
threatened to undermine the program, congressional bracero advocates steered new
legislation to passage and U.S. officials quickly arranged a new accord with Mexico.
By limiting the participation of organized labor and other bracero opponents in the
program, bracero policy monopolists were in a positioned to achieve specific policy
goals such as the establishment of border reception centers while stabilizing the
73


program. Limited participation contributed to the stability of the policy monopoly
itself, something which helped to contain the threat posed when alarm over illegal
immigration combined with Cold War hysteria to push the immigration restrictionist
agenda to the forefront.
Yet the stability of the monopoly was being slowly undermined from within. For
most of the period from 1952 to 1959 the DOL cooperated with growers and the INS
in assuring a plentiful supply of bracero labor. The decentralized system for
determining labor shortages and the prevailing wages that was carried out by the
USES and later by the Bureau of Employment Security (BES), was well suited to
growers. Most decisions were made in the State Employment Services, the Farm
Placement Services, and the local branches of the BES where growers had little
trouble in influencing decisions. For instance, the BES, like its predecessor,
continued to think in terms of supplying farm labor, not in terms of protecting or
finding jobs for farm workers ( Hawley, 1966, 165).
The efforts of the INS to expand and entrench the program, however, exacerbated
the class conflict surrounding the importation of foreign labor for the DOL.
Confronted with growing class conflict, the DOL began to rigorously enforce
existing bracero regulations and issue new ones. In effect, the DOLs reaction to the
74


INS strategy acted as a catalyst for the demise of the program and the collapse of the
policy monopoly. In the next chapter I explore this turn of events.
75


CHAPTER FOUR
BREAKDOWN AND COLLAPSE: 1960-1964
Introduction
In this chapter, I argue that the strategy pursued by the INS created problems for
the DOL. The detrimental effects of an expanded and entrenched Bracero Program
on domestic farm wages, combined with the growing power of organized farm labor,
heightened the class contradictions surrounding the importation of foreign labor.
Given its position within the state as an agency whose official mandate is to oversee
labor-capital relations, the DOL was forced to grapple with the intensified class
contradictions. Pressured on one side by growers demanding access to a plentiful
supply of bracero labor, and on the other side by domestic labor to curtail the
detrimental effects of the program on farm wages, the agency was forced to chose
between the two. As the DOL began to tighten up restrictions on the program, it
put itself on a collision course with the INS, growers, and pro-bracero advocates in
Congress. A conflict between growers and the INS on one side and the DOL and
organized labor on the other quickly developed, leading to the collapse of the
bracero policy monopoly.
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The collapse of the policy monopoly and the termination of the program was sped
up by the intervention of president Kennedy and associated external factors. Unlike
Eisenhower, the new administration of Kennedy did not give blanket support for the
labor importation program. Instead, the Kennedy administration adamantly opposed
any extension of PL 78 that did not include reforms designed to protect domestic
farm labor. In addition, pro-bracero advocates for the first time faced significant
opposition to the extension of the program from the more liberal Congress which
emerged following the 1958 mid-term elections (Omstein and Mann, 1996).
Moreover, the increasing mechanization of agriculture reduced growers overall
demand for bracero labor, and geographically and politically isolated the dwindling
number of bracero users.
Organized Labor
Wages declined in almost every area in which the use of braceros was heavily
concentrated. The Presidents Commission correlated farm wages and
concentrations of braceros and concluded that the influx of braceros had been central
in depressing wages (Presidents Commission, 1951, 59-59). A DOL consultants
report, citing the decline of farm wages in sugar beats, cotton, fruit, and vegetables
concluded that the adverse effects on domestic labor were almost an inevitable
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consequence of the Bracero Program (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of
Employment Security, 1959,273). The effects of bracero labor on domestic farm
wages were most noticeable in Texas, which at the height of the program was both
the largest importer and exporter of migrant farm labor (Moore 1965, 88).
For these reasons, organized labor began to oppose the program more aggressively.
In the past it had concentrated its efforts on accessing detailed records from the DOL
to document the effects of the Bracero Program on wages and working conditions,
the use of braceros as strikebreakers and their employment when domestic labor
was abundant. Now, organized labor increased its pressure, demanding that the DOL
enforce bracero regulations on labor shortages and the provision prohibiting the use
of braceros as strikebreakers be upheld. In this effort, organized labor made the DOL
its prime target.
In conjunction with its increased activism, the power of organized labor, especially
farm labor, had begun to grow. In 1956, a number of unions including the powerful
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees pledged their support to the
National Agricultural Workers Union (NAWU, formerly the National Farm Labor
Union, or NFLU). In 1959, the AFL-CIO formed the Agricultural Workers
Organizing Committee (AWOC) and contributed $500,000 dollars to help organize
farm workers in California (Jacobs 1963, 193). Over the next six years the AFL-CIO
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put over one million dollars into the organizing efforts of AWOC (Jenkins 1985,
114). Although AWOC was not always successful against agribusiness, the support
of the AFL-CIO injected new life into the farm worker movement.
The POLs Response
The effects of Bracero Program on farm wages, combined with growing power of
organized farm labor, made the foreign labor importation program problematic for
the DOL. For the DOL, an expanded Bracero Program, combined with growing
power of organized labor aggravated the contradictions facing agency. The agency
experienced these contradiction at two levels. First, the DOL faced this contradiction
at the implementation level. As Craig points, the DOL was given the, incompatible
function of recruiting Mexican labor while simultaneously protecting domestic
farmworkers from any ill effects stemming from bracero contracting. (Craig 1971,
199).
Second, the contradictions surrounding the importation of foreign labor also
stemmed from a broader conflict between labor and capital. The DOL has an
institutional mandate to oversee capital-labor relations and to provide an institutional
arena in which the interests of American workers can at least be voiced. Although
the DOL does not uniformly favor labor in its decision-making, it cannot consistently
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ignore labors demands. The intensifying class contradiction of an expanded Bracero
Program for the DOl are aptly described by Calavita:
The unrelenting pressure brought to bear on the agency [the DOL]
from the ranks of growers and domestic workers was the visible
embodiment of this class conflict and the role of the Labor
Department as its principle navigator (Calavita 1992,126).
Pressed on one side by growers and their representatives to provide a plentiful and
cheap supply of braceros and on the other side by organized labor, the DOL began
to impose new regulations and tighten existing ones. In 1956, it instructed state
employment agencies to publicize the number of workers which will be
necessary, prevailing wages, and authorizations of contract to certify that
domestic labor was unavailable. That same year it established stringent housing
regulations which it quickly became clear the agency intended to enforce. Six
months after the regulations were put into effect, over 10% of bracero camps in
California and Arizona were closed for violations (Craig 1971,152).
In 1958, the DOL announced new methods for determining prevailing wages and
piece rates. The new method for determining prevailing wages was a 40 percent
formula, in which the prevailing hourly wage would be that received by the greatest
number of domestic workers, if that number constituted 40 percent or more of the
workers covered in a sample survey. The new method for determining piece rates
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was termed the 90-10 formula, whereby employers were required to increase bracero
wages in cases where 90 percent of the braceros engaged in a particular piece rate
activity did not average 50 cents an hour.
In response to the growing uneasiness of the DOL over the adverse effects of
bracero labor on domestic wages and working conditions, Labor Secretary James
Mitchell appointed a group of consultants to study the problem. The consultants
report was highly critical of the Bracero Program. It documented not only the
adverse effects of the program on domestic farm wages, but also revealed a pattern
of deliberate grower abuses and violations. Among the recommendations of the
consultants groups was that the use of braceros be confined to unskilled, non-
machine jobs, that the Secretary of Labor be given broader power in establishing
prevailing wages and that he be further empowered to establish standards forjudging
adverse effect (Craig 1971,155). The report provided a legitimating base from
which the DOL pursued more rigorous regulations and enforcement in the programs
final years.
Perhaps the most controversial move by the DOL to protect domestic labor was to
terminate the Special Program. Remember from the discussion of the 1-100 card that
skilled workers were designated as Specials. The Special system quickly evolved
into a separate program under which growers and ranchers were able to recontract
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specific workers with critical skills. The Special Program proved to be enormously
popular with growers (Calavita 1992). Organized labor and Mexican negotiators
opposed the Special Program. Labor criticized it for taking away the most skilled
agricultural jobs from domestic workers while Mexican officials opposed it because
of the quasi-permanent nature of bracero contracting in which workers were often
continually recontracted to the same employer. Mexican officials viewed the Bracero
Program as a way to rotate large numbers of workers in and out of Mexican
agriculture. In 1960, however, after years of vacillation, the DOL terminated the
Special Program. Since under PL 78 no Specials could be admitted without
certification of a labor need, the DOL simply refused to certify them.
The Monopoly Collapses
Predictably, the INS and growers objected to all the changes the DOL imposed.
The new regulations issued by the DOL threatened growers access to a cheap and
relatively unregulated supply of bracero labor and thus jeopardized the INS strategy
which relied on making the program amenable to growers demands. The INS, for
example, charged that the new regulations would trigger a return by employers to the
use of illegal workers. According to internal INS documents unearthed by Calavita,
the INS strongly criticized the DOL for altering the prevailing wage formula. The
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INS charged that this change would result in a lessening of cooperation on the part
of fanners and ranchers who feel that their successful operation depends on the use
of minimum wage labor (MSAR, Marfa, Texas, November, 1961. Accession
64A1851, Box 161, quoted in Calavita, 1992, p.128). Remarking on how the
increasing restrictions put on the contracting of bracero labor compounded the
immigration agencys enforcement problems, INS Deputy Associate Commissioner
Frank Partridge bluntly stated that the new regulations:
would bring about a demand for worker predicted that many
employers would be unable or disinclined to hire domestic workers
and would again seek to utilize illegal aliens...Any legislation
unduly restrictive to bracero contracting would adversely effect6
enforcement and should be opposed. (Quoted in Calavita 1992,
130-131).
Equally predictable, growers supported the INS in its conflict with the DOL. In
complaining about the programs restrictions, growers were careful to distinguish
between the two agencies, reserving their criticism for the latter. According to the
INS public survey conducted in 1957, Texas growers reported that relations with the
Border Patrol today were much better than they were during the wetback days; and
that the Labor Department is making the program so rigid that farmers cannot
comply with the restrictions (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Public
Opinion Survey, Southwest Region, August 23, 1957,7; 10).
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But the INS and growers did not confine themselves to complaints. Calavita
reports that growers used the INS as mediators in their attempts to be heard by the
DOL and that the INS was not averse to encouraging growers to reciprocate the favor
by using their considerable clout to bring the DOL into line with Immigrations
position (Calavita 1992,131-132). More importantly, growers supported every effort
to increase the immigration agencys authority over the Bracero Program relative to
that of the DOL. Growers and their congressional allies even spearheaded an
unsuccessful attempt to remove the Special Program from the jurisdiction of the
DOL. When the DOL briefly suspended the contracting of Specials in 1958, growers
and pro-bracero advocates in the House Agriculture Committee proposed that the
INS be given sole authority in the contracting of Specials.
Subsequent to the establishment of the new prevailing wage formula and piece
rates in 1958 and the DOLs termination of the Special Program in 1960, growers
and their congressional allies suggested using the much smaller H-2 temporary labor
program as an alternative way of securing Mexican farm labor. Administered by the
INS, the H-2 program allowed workers from the British West Indies and several
other countries to be admitted temporarily; H-2 workers were concentrated primarily
in Florida and other East Coast agricultural areas. For the duration of the Bracero
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Program, however, Mexican farm workers were ineligible to participate in the H-2
program under the terms of the International Migratory Labor Agreement.
Kennedy
Pro-bracero advocates faced not only stiffening resistance to the program from the
DOL, but also from the Kennedy administration which was far less sympathetic to
growers interests than Eisenhower. The Kennedy administrations opposition to a
Bracero Program which did not contain provisions to protect domestic labor had a
profound impact on the collapse of the bracero policy monopoly and the programs
demise. Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones note that presidential involvement can
have a decisive impact on the process of agenda-setting and the breakup of policy
monopolies (Baumgartner and Jones 1993,241).
In this case, Kennedys public opposition to an extension of the program that did
not contain the recommendations in the consultants report was backed by the threat
of veto and thus had a decisive influence on the legislative proceedings over the
extension of PL 78 (Craig 1971). In addition, Kennedy was able to exercise
substantial influence on the operation of the bracero policy monopoly through his
power to appoint members of to his cabinet. In the case of the Bracero Program,
Kennedy instructed the new Secretary of Labor, Arthur Goldberg, to vigorously
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enforce the new bracero regulations. Goldberg followed through with these
instructions. In 1962, he issued adverse-effect wage rates for the twenty-four
bracero states (which replaced the local prevailing wages based on the 40% formula
with a minimum wage stipulated by the Secretary of Labor for) which effectively
raised bracero wages in many areas. In addition, under his leadership the DOL
showed a new reluctance to certify labor shortages (Calavita 199,146). The
administrations policy toward foreign contract labor had the effect of aggravating
the already existing conflict within the bracero policy monopoly.
Lastly, Kennedys impact on the Bracero Program was partly the result of the
influence presidents have through their ability to communicate to the nation.
Although Kennedy said little publicly about the Bracero Program, his liberal political
orientation and New Frontier rhetoric helped to mobilize public opinion against the
program. Ellis Hawley hints at the indirect power Kennedy and Johnson had on the
program:
The new concern with migrant labor was part of the broad changes
that produced the New Frontier and the Great Society...In a
climate that produced the civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty,
the perpetuation of PL 78 became a moral issue and urban support
became much harder to secure (Hawley 1966,172).
Kennedys involvement in the Bracero Program illustrates that presidents can
influence agendas and policy monopolies in both direct and indirect ways. This
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example of presidential involvement suggests that chief executives may function as
super advocates because of their combined power to effect policies through
internal and external means.
External Factors
No official redistribution of power was ever agreed to by Congress, nor was the H-
2 program ever used for Mexican workers. Instead, pro-bracero advocates and
growers were finding Congress increasingly resistant to the generous Bracero
Program they had established. In addition, these advocates saw their own ranks
diminish as mechanization reduced the overall demand for bracero labor. The
demise of the bracero policy monopoly was already well under way as a result of
internal conflict. Primarily external factors such as mechanization and growing
congressional opposition, however, contributed to its collapse and the programs
eventual termination.
Mechanization. Stiffer regulations, combined with the growing mechanization of
agriculture, brought a sharp decrease in bracero contracting. By 1962, fewer than
200,000 braceros were being imported, the smallest number since Operation
Wetback, and by 1964 the number had declined to less than 178,000, the lowest it
had been at any time since the institutionalization of the program in 1951
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(Congressional Research Service1980, 65). In 1951, 8% of cotton in the U.S. was
harvested by machine; by 1964 the figure had reached 78 %, indicating a radical
change in the production of the crop (Nix 1963, 12). The percentage of cotton
harvested by machines was even higher in California and Arizona, two principle
bracero using states (Craig 1971,181). As cotton was mechanized, the pattern of
bracero contracting and the level of support for the program changed substantially.
In 1961, growers in Texaswhere the major bracero crop was cottonemployed
40% of all braceros, and California contracted 64%; one year later the figures had
shifted to 15% and 60%, respectively (Runsteen and Leveen, 1981, 53-55). In 1962
alone, the number of braceros contracted by Texas growers fell by more than 77,000
from the preceding year (Eckstein 1964,10). By 1964, braceros were largely
confined to Californias fruit crops where mechanization proved difficult. In the
words of Calavita, the result [of mechanization] was not only decreased demand for
braceros overall, but shifting regional alliances as California growers were
increasingly isolated in their dependence on the contract labor supply (Calavita
199,144). Increased mechanization thus weakened the appeal of the agenda to import
foreign labor.
Congress. Opposition to the contract labor system came not only from the DOL,
but from Congress as well. Lawmakers were increasingly reluctant to rubber-stamp
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extensions of the program. In the 1950s, the bracero program was extended three
times with only minor controversy, and without significant amendement. In contrast,
the extension proceedings of 1960 marked a turning point as pro-bracero advocates
were put on the defensive, where they stayed for the rest of the program.
In 1960, pro-bracero advocates in Congress introduced amendments to give the
Secretary of Agriculture veto power over DOL policies and to prohibit the Secretary
of Labor from setting minimum wages and working conditions for domestic workers.
They attempted to have the program extended in this form for two years but failed
on all counts and the program was extended for only six months. While
congressional opponents of the program were unsuccessful in altering it based on the
recommendations of the consultants report, according to Craig they came close to
halting the extension of PL 78 altogether (Craig 1971,160). Craig attributes the
failure of pro-bracero advocates to obtain extension on favorable terms to clumsy
legislative tactics such as the attempt to emasculate the power of Secretary of Labor,
the growing opposition among interest groups and members of Congress to the
contract labor program that resulted from DOL disclosures on the problems
associated with the foreign labor importation system. In addition, fearful of being
associated with a losing effort, the powerful National Grange deserted from the pro-
bracero ranks (Craig 1971,160-161; 176).
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The following year, Congress passed amendments that were based on the
consultants report and backed by the Kennedy administration. The 1961 extension
of PL 78 contained the exclusion of braceros from anything other than temporary or
seasonal employment and prohibited their use of power-driven machinery and for
canning or packing activities. Growers and their congressional allies managed to
prevent any further amendments such one requiring bracero contractors to offer
domestic laborers working conditions comparable to braceros but they failed in their
attempts to curtail the power of the DOL.
For growers, the two year extension was a bittersweet accomplishment. On
December 4,1963, the program was extended for one more year. Pro-bracero
advocates, anxious to secure at least this one-year extension, promised it would be
the last. As promised, the program was allowed to die in December of 1964. By the
time the program was being phased out, many growers had opted out of the contract
labor system altogether by either returning to the employment of illegal labor or
relying on machinery to cultivate and harvest crops (Calavita, 1992). Those that
continued to utilize bracero labor complained loudly about the decision to terminate
the program. This decision, however, was perhaps harder on the INS for whom the
Bracero Program was central to its carefully crafted strategy designed to give the
agency a reprieve from the pressures and contradictions it faced with immigration.
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The literature on policy monopolies stresses that policy outputs under such
arrangements are shaped more by congressional committees than Congress as a
whole. Several scholars studying the policy process, however, note that external
factors such as congressional and presidential elections can have a powerful impact
on policy monopolies (Sabatier in Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993; Kingdon 1995).
The growing opposition of Congress to the Bracero Program was not the result of a
critical election such as a realigning election (a permanent shift in voters party
identification) as no such type of election occurred during the period analyzed in this
chapter. Nevertheless, much less radical congressional election results can
substantially affect not only the makeup of Congress as a whole, but also
congressional committee memberships. These changes in membership help to create
new policy monopolies or destroy existing ones as new committee members with
different agendas, perspectives, and so forth gain a position in the policy area. The
Democratic victories in Congress following the 1958 mid-term election altered
membership in the House Agriculture and Labor Committees thus intensifying
congressional conflict over the Bracero Program (Hawley, 1966).
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Conclusion
The collapse of the bracero policy monopoly began slowly, originating with the new
restrictions on the foreign labor program issued by the DOL in the middle and late
1950s. A complex and intertwined set of internal and external factors eroded the
institutional arrangements that had governed the importation of Mexican contract
labor for over two decades. The external or macro environmental factors partly
responsible for originating the collapse of the policy monopoly included the growing
power of organized labor and the position of the DOL in the state apparatus as
mediator of capital-labor relations. Later, the growing resistance of Kennedy and
Congress to the program and the increasing mechanization of agriculture helped to
speed up and complete the process of the subsystems destruction and termination of
the program.
Yet these factors alone do not account for the demise of the policy monopoly;
factors endemic to this subsystem played a significant part too. The effects of
generous bracero program on domestic labor, the increasing pressure by organized
labor on the DOL to protect domestic labor, growers reactions to DOL policies, and
the role that each agency was assigned in implementing the program interacted with
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external factors in the manner described in this chapter to destroy the policy
monopoly and bring about an end to the program.
The process by which the policy monopoly collapsed was itself complicated. The
divergence of interests, the breakdown in the system of mutual support, the
challenges to the dominant policy image, and the process of conflict expansion did
not happen in a simple linear fashion but instead occurred simultaneously. The
DOLs promulgation of new regulations combined with its new commitment to
enforcing older ones resulted in the simultaneous divergence of interests and a
breakdown in mutual support that had existed between the DOL, growers, and the
INS. At the same time, the new DOL policies with respect to Mexican contract labor
challenged the dominant, positive policy image of bracero labor presented by pro-
bracero advocates. These changes intensified the process of conflict expansion by
providing incentives for opponents of the program to redouble their efforts and focus
their energies on influencing the DOL.
In the final years of the program, the bracero subsystem ceased to exist as a tightly
knit policy monopoly but was instead transformed into an issue network. The type of
issue network that existed in this period is aptly described by Paul Sabatier as an
advocacy coalition According to Sabatier, an advocacy coalition is an issue network
composed of two or more coalitions competing over the definition of issues and the
93