New Measure in California Aims to Bring History of Mass Deportation to Light

A group of elementary school students in Southern California helped to make history this month as a measure they spearheaded was passed by the California Senate and Assembly. If, as expected, it is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, the measure will make California the first state in the nation to strongly encourage history textbooks and class curriculum to cover the mass deportation of millions of Mexican immigrants and MexicanAmericans from the United States during the 1930’s. And with the national controversy over immigration reignited in recent months by debate among several frontrunners for the presidential nomination, the opportunity for California students to learn about this dark period in their nation’s history could not come at a more opportune time.

The measure, known as Assembly Bill 146, is the brainchild of state Assemblywoman Christine Garcia and a group of fifth graders at Bell Gardens Elementary School in San Diego. During a visit to the school last year, Garcia was treated to a presentation by the students about the Mexican Repatriation Act, which was enacted during the Great Depression due to misconceptions that immigrants were taking jobs away from white workers. Between 1929 and 1936, over one million Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans were forced to leave the U.S., despite the fact that over 60 percent of those deported were United States citizens.

The presentation resonated deeply with Garcia. “I didn’t learn about this in school,” she said in a recent interview with Fox News Latina. “It was bad for human rights, our basic principles as Americans, and it was bad for the economy.” When the students told Garcia that they had trouble finding research materials about the Mexican Repatriation Act, she encouraged them to submit an idea for a measure to a district-wide contest. “I encouraged them to dream big…and today their bill has passed the California State Legislature,” Garcia said proudly. [See California Passes Bill Urging Schools to Teach 1930’s Mass Deportation of Mexicans, by Elizabeth Llortente, Fox News Latino, 10.Sep.2015]

Because of this policy of mass deportations, family members were permanently separated, homes and businesses were lost, and some deportees even died attempting to gain entry back into the United States. And although California issued an official apology in 2005 to the Mexican immigrants and MexicanAmericans who were affected by the Mexican Repatriation Act, the federal government has remained silent. For that reason, Garcia and supporters of the measure feel that it is imperative that Governor Brown sign the measure into law. “History cannot be erased,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera Jr., communications director for Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, to Fox News Latino. “We should include these lessons early on so that our future leaders, young students now, will be less likely to repeat our past mistakes.”


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