We Want You When We Need You, Otherwise Get Out: The Historical Struggle of Mexican Immigrants to Obtain Lawful Permanent Residency in the United States
37 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2011 Last revised: 23 Feb 2012
Date Written: 2011
While it is true that a large number of immigrants to this country entered through sea ports during the 19th century, they were not the only arriving legal immigrants. The west coast has its own very different picture of arriving legal immigrants, one that includes subjugation, treaties, and dusty townships, as well as assumptions and mischaracterizations. This essay explores the treaties and statutes that directly affected Mexican permanent legal immigration to the United States.
We begin with a discussion of 19th Century immigration, but quickly turn to the immigrant visa program. The paper then discusses the availability of administrative and regularization remedies to undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States. These three particular programs represent the primary means by which Mexicans have lawfully and permanently immigrated to the United States in the past 160 years. We purposely excluded discussions of temporary lawful immigrants and legal migration to the United States, focusing instead on the processes that have made it possible for Mexicans to legally and permanently settle in the United States.
The evolution and manipulation of these programs by political forces leaves a legacy worthy of inquiry. Mexicans intending to make a permanent home in the United States confronted enormous obstacles in their pursuit of this status. Although Mexicans were not summarily excluded in the way Asians were, the United States sought to limit their settlement in the United States. At several points in history Mexican immigrants were encouraged, threatened, or forced to depart the United States irrespective of their right to lawfully reside in the United States. The waves of displacement disrupted advances in permanent legal resettlement. Furthermore, statutes and regulations were manipulated to discourage permanent Mexican immigration. Then as now, the United States misconstrued the unique relationship between Mexico and the United States choosing to sidestep the realities of the countries' interconnectedness, and leaving the Mexican immigration problem no closer to resolution.
Keywords: mexican-american history, immigration, southwest, mexicans, family petitions, deportation, admission, aliens, immigrants
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