Importing Labor: The Bracero Program

With thousands of Americans at war, California and the nation faced a sudden and severe shortage of farm labor. In 1942, Congress enacted the Emergency Labor Program, which called for the importation of workers from Mexico. Dorothea Lange was there to record the arrival of some of the first laborers. The Bracero program (from the Spanish for "strong-armed ones”) was originally meant to be temporary, but after the war the nation's growers, particularly those in California, lobbied for extension of the act, which remained in effect for decades. The readiness with which Americans welcomed Mexican workers in a time of need stands in sharp contrast to more prevalent anti-immigrant attitudes.

When the U.S. needed it most, we came to serve the United States. When the U.S. needed it most, I was here. — José Ramírez Delgado, ex-bracero