Increased lawful migration,flexibility,and smart enforcement funneled workers into theBracero Programand reduced unauthorized immigration by an estimated 90 percent.
the farm, housing, and meals were sold by theemployers for a low price.
Importantly, theBracero Program did not limit the numberof migratory workers as long as the govern-ment’s conditions were met, making the sys-tem relatively flexible. Increased lawful mi-gration, flexibility, and smart enforcementfunneled workers into the Bracero Programand reduced unauthorized immigration by an estimated 90 percent.
From its humble beginnings in September,1942, when the first group of 500 Braceros ar-rived at a farm outside of Stockton, Califor-nia, until the program’s cancellation in 1964,nearly five million Mexicans worked legally inthe United States.
From 1955 to 1960, an-nual Bracero migration fluctuated between400,000 and 450,000.
By the time of its can-cellation, increasing regulations and restric-tions whittled their numbers down to just168,000.
Those regulations raised costs forfarmers and migrants, incentivizing migrantsto move into the informal, undergroundeconomy.
By making lawful employmentof migrants so expensive, the government cre-ated unauthorized immigration.Pressure from unions, especially CesarChavez’s United Farm Workers (UFW), per-suaded Congress to cancel the Bracero Pro-gram in 1964.
The great grape strike of 1965, which was the UFW’s first major suc-cess, was only possible after Congress can-celled the Bracero Program and Mexican la-borers were denied legal work opportunitieson American farms.
After cancellation of the Bracero Pro-gram, the H-2 guest worker visa became thesource of legal foreign agricultural workers.The H-2 was underused relative to the Bra-cero Program because of complex rules, nu-merical restrictions, and the cost of sponsor-ing migratory workers.
The H-2 visa wasinitially created through the Immigrationand Nationality Act of 1952 for “other tem-porary workers” not covered by the BraceroProgram.
From 1964 until 1986, mostly temporary unauthorized Mexican migrationfilled the gap left by the repeal of the BraceroProgram and unfilled by the H-2 visa.
The 1986 Immigration Reform and Con-trol Act separated the H-2 visa into the H-2Afor temporary agricultural workers and theH-2B for seasonal nonagricultural workers.
Over time, the Department of Labor createdeven more extensive regulations for the H-2A visa.
Although the H-2A visa faces no nu-merical limit, the complexity of federal regula-tions has made the visa too expensive for mostfarmers.
The H-2B visa, although less com-plex, is numerically capped.
The Immigra-tion Act of 1990 created what we now know as the H-1 visa for highly skilled workers.
There are other infrequently used temporary guest worker visas for those with extraordi-nary abilities in the sciences, arts, education,business, athletics, and entertainment.
The American guest worker system dividesmigrants into visa categories based on theirskills and occupation. It then creates differ-ing regulatory burdens through inspection,wage controls, employee benefit mandates,country-of-origin restrictions, worker mobil-ity, numerical quotas, and numerous otherlimitations on the employment and numberof guest workers. Since World War I the levelof control and restrictiveness of quotas hasincreased, creating an environment whereunauthorized immigration can thrive.
Why Do They Migrate?
Migrants are drawn to economic op-portunity in the United States. Wages foridentical workers in the United States are onaverage 2.53 times as high as in Mexico, pro- viding a powerful magnet for Mexican im-migrants.
More important for future im-migrants, wage disparities between identical Asian and American workers are even great-er.
Workers in India, Vietnam, and thePhilippines, three large immigrant sourcecountries, can expect to see their wages in-crease by about 6, 6.5, and 4 times, respec-tively, by moving to the United States.
Wages for observably identical workers vary so much across countries for two majorreasons. The first is that the United States