By Diego Mulato-Castillo
Note: I was fortunate to teach “The History of Mexican Migration” Spring 2018 at San Francisco State University. I say “fortunate” because never during my lifetime has the need for an accurate, historical, evidence-driven understanding of the movement of Mexican peoples across the U.S.-Mexico border been more important. With the Trump administration’s attacks on the migrant community in the United States, students were eager to find out the history behind the violent rhetoric and policies that characterized Trump’s rise to power. Needless to say, students were all overwhelmed with the long, ugly
xenophobic history of the United States. At the beginning of class I informed my students that I co-managed a blog focused on the history and politics of the Southwestern borderlands. As the course progressed students suggested that whoever wrote the best final paper should have their work published on the blog. What an excellent idea!
There were many excellent papers written about diverse topics relating to racism, labor,
environmentalism, eugenics, and more. But, in the end, only one would get the honor. I am pleased to announce that Diego Mulato Castillo’s essay titled “Alienating Laws: How Mexican Migration Became Illegal,” is the winner of our mini-contest. A timely piece, Mulato Castillo examines the legal history and the various social turns that drove the U.S. to make the migration of Mexican people and by extension Latin Americans “illegal.”
Diego Mulato Castillo is an undergraduate student at San Francisco State University and is majoring in literature with an interest in the Central American diaspora, specifically from the so-called northern triangle. He finds the history of Mexican migration interesting for it sheds a distinct light on the migration of Central Americans to el norte, and migration from all of Latin America as a whole.
This essay will be presented in two parts. Enjoy! -Lina Murillo
Mexican immigration into the United States is perceive as an illegal act in the twenty-first century warranting expulsion, however, historically this has not always been the case. The ebb and flow of Mexican migration has been influenced and framed differently throughout the complicated and intertwined history of the United States and its neighbor to the south, Mexico. The U.S. and Mexico not only share one of the most militarized borders in the world, but also a shared history fraught with tension and vast inequality. It is this historic tension and inequality that has served as a catalyst for the vast migration of Mexicans to the United States, which has possessed a historical ambivalence towards these immigrants, at times welcoming them as cheap labor hands to then call for their return to their native land. This paper will focus on the history of Mexican migration and the law beginning with the first Mexican Americans after the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and the events leading up to the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border in the late twentieth century in order to understand how Mexican immigration became illegal in twenty-first century.
The first Mexican immigrants were not quite immigrants, but rather became conquered subjects of the United States after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which forced the Mexican state to cede nearly half of its northern territory to the United States. In the aftermath of the U.S. War with Mexico, an estimated 100,000 Mexican citizens lived in the ceded territories. One of the main caveats pursued by Mexico in the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was for the Mexican citizens left in the ceded territories to be awarded all the benefits of U.S citizenship—the United States agreed. In 1848, the United States perceived itself as a “white” nation of a predominantly northwestern European background, and citizenship was awarded only to individuals who fit this racial makeup. As a result, the sighing of the treaty had the impact of assigning the former Mexican citizens in the annexed territories the racial category of “white”. Despite the treaty, former Mexicanos of indigenous decent were not awarded the status of citizenship. Moreover, Mexican-Americans were treated as second class citizens, despite possessing the same claim to citizenship as their counterparts of European ancestry. Laura E. Gómez argues that U.S. colonialism is responsible for the creation of the first Mexican-Americans. Indeed manifest destiny was the impetus behind the acquisition of Norther Mexico, as the United States hoped to obtain a vast amount of natural resources and create a large swatch of land prime for settlement. It was through this destabilization of the Mexican state that the pull of individuals from Mexico came into being. Continue reading