Reparations Sought by Deportees

Unknown to most Americans, more than a million Mexican Americans in the United States were illegally deported to Mexico in the 1930s. Steven Ruiz, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDF) attorney, made a presentation to NCRR members at the November general meeting. He recounted the history of racism against Mexican Americans that resulted in the current demand for a study commission and possible reparations for those whose civil and constitutional rights were violated.

A decade before the incarceration of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps, 12,668 Los Angeles Mexican Americans were coerced onto trains and transported to Mexico in a campaign coordinated by the INS and local law enforcement agencies. Fueled by racism and the economic hardships of the Depression, Mexican Americans were suddenly “an immigration problem” in California, Michigan and many other states. More than 60% of those that were deported were American citizens and the vast majority of the others were legal United States residents. Like the Japanese Americans they lost everything and suffered extreme hardships in Mexico.

After learning about the deportees, California State Senator Joseph L. Dunn conducted a Senate fact-finding hearing in 2003; in 2004 he sponsored bills to 1) create a study commission and 2) to extend the statute of limitations for victims wishing to file claims for damages. Both bills passed the California legislature but, unfortunately, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills. U.S. Representative Hilda Solis is now writing legislation to establish a federal study commission. Attorney Ruiz promises to keep NCRR informed as the campaign for Mexican reparations develops.