During World War I, migration to the U.S. from Europe declined, increasing the demand for Mexican labor to fill the void. Growers lobbied to create the first temporary guest worker program for Mexicans, later known as “the First Bracero Program.” The program ended in 1921. During the lifespan of the program, 76,862 Mexican workers were admitted to the United States, of which 34,992 returned to Mexico.1 

The U.S. government passed the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 to restrict the flow of European immigrants but excluded Mexicans from the Quota requirements. The immigration Act of 1924 then extended the restrictions to Asian labor migrants, while Mexicans were still admitted with visa fees and taxed from those entering the country. By 1930, the U.S. census counted 600,000 Mexicans residing in the U.S, a 200,000 increase from 1919, comprising less than 5 percent of the immigrant workforce, without counting undocumented immigrants.2  


  1. Vernon M. Briggs Jr. “History of Guestworker Programs: Lesson from the Past and the Warnings for the Future,” Center for Immigration Studies, modified March 1, 2004,  https://cis.org/Report/History-Guestworker-Programs
  2. “U.S.-Mexico Relations 1810-2010,” Council on Foreign Relations, accessed June 15th, 2021, https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-mexico-relations
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