Immigration in the United States has gone through phases according to political and social movements; the opportunities available; and the economic cycles not only in the countries of origin, but also globally. One of the major immigrant populations in United States is made of Mexican background. In 2013, there were 11.6 million Mexican immigrants residing in the United States.
However, the arrival of Mexican immigrants, as one of the largest groups in United Stated, happened in phases or waves.
There are known to be four major waves of the large scale Mexican migration in the 20
century. The first wave happened prior to WWII and it attracted mainly agricultural workers. Also, during 1942-1964, the Bracero program was established in which a series of diplomatic agreement between the United States and Mexico enabled manual workers to work temporarily in the United States. The third wave of Mexican immigrants came right after the Bracero Program was terminated and most of the seasonal workers became unauthorized to work.
A change in the immigration laws and limits on the number of the Mexican immigrants and also other Latin American countries facilitated the Bracero Program. In exchange for tougher immigration laws and border control, the U.S. legalized approximately 3 million Mexican immigrants. As result, many workers settled in the United Sates with their families. Lastly, the fourth wave of unauthorized Mexican immigrants occurred between 1990 and 2010. Approximately 7.5 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants arrived in the United States. Most newcomers settled in the states near the Mexican border such as Texas and California and metropolitan areas opened to employment opportunities. The concentration of the Mexican immigrants in these counties accounted for 23 percent of the entire Mexican population in the U.S.
What the public fails to realize is that the population from Mexican heritage and backgrounds cannot be classified under the same groups and be subject to the same immigration laws. After the Mexican-American war ended in 1848, and also after the Gadsden Purchase, the Mexican population within the borders of United States had the chance of staying as naturalized U.S. citizens or leaving their lands and go south of the border. Approximately 90% of these Mexican nationals in the territories of California, New Mexico, Nevada, parts of Colorado, Arizona, and Utah decided to stay. The Mexican population struggled keeping their lands and belongings, or getting a fair opportunity at equality before the law. This is one of the reasons the struggles of Chicano self-identity movement stated in the 1950s and 1960s.
It is of a great importance that the immigration issues are kept apart from the Chicano Civil Rights Movement because they evolved as social movements differently until they were unified while the Mexican nationals were being apprehended by the federal government and mistreated in acts of denigrations by both groups Anglo-Americans and Mexican Americans. The word Aztlan (derogatory for illegal alien) contained in itself the perspective of negative waves of illegal workers who threatened the country’s economy. The general assumption was that waves of Mexican immigrant would compromise the society since most of them were illiterate and uneducated. This resistance to socially accept the Mexican immigrants coming from the south of the border came with the fear of the economy being impacted. The fear of competing in the job market became one of the major non-acceptance patterns between the country’s population and the main immigrant populations or even those who flooded the job market from other countries.
Waves of Mexican immigrants from south of the border included seasonal workers and the ongoing economic crises of 1917 required Congress to pass laws on restricting the number of Mexican immigrants. Thus, Congress imposed a literacy requirement and a tax of eight dollars per head in order to meet the working requirement. With an illiteracy rate of 85% among the Michoacán, the primary source of Mexican immigrants in the 1917, the population suffered a setback.