The U.S. and Mexican governments owe a gigantic historical debt to the Braceros, Mexican workers who were recruited to work in the U.S. from 1[phone redacted], and whose paychecks were docked 10% by employers for pension. Over fifty years later, these pensions remain unpaid. As the now elderly Braceros organize and demand their lawful pensions from these two nations, they are inviting you and me to support in two ways by this Friday, September 20th:
1) put any capital we may have toward their transportation, lodging and food costs by donating through this site
2) sign their petition to Labor Secretary Tom Perez
Please read below for details about their fundraising and petition requests.
Historic March for a Historic Debt:
Since August 2013, elders from MÃ©xico and South West United States have been caravaning across the U.S. to call public attention to the fact that millions of Braceros, now elderly, have yet to receive their promised and lawful pensions. The total pension, factored with accrued interest, is worth over $500 million. The caravan concludes in Washington D.C. this Friday 9/20, after several public protests, public talks about their experiences as Braceros, and meetings with federal agencies. After this week, the 18 caravan members will then make their way back to their homes across MÃ©xico and the South West U.S., to continue the fight. They are fundraising for transportation, food and lodging costs for this return trip. If you have the capacities, please put some money toward the material conditions of survival as these elders organize to receive their pension.
The Bracero Program & Pension Problems
These elderly activists, in their younger days, were the Mexican manual laborers recruited during the 1[phone redacted] U.S. Bracero Program. During this time, nearly five million Mexican nationals entered the U.S. on a temporary basis to harvest American agricultural fields and work in railroad construction under what is commonly known as the "Bracero Program." Mexican workers, willing to take back-breaking jobs for low pay, were contracted by U.S. companies to meet the economic needs of an expanding U.S. economy. Under the program, approximately 10% of workers' income was withheld by their employers and deposited into U.S. banks for saving.
To incentivize braceros to return home, the money was then transferred to the Mexican government to be returned once these workers permanently returned to Mexico. Wells Fargo, the bank where the money was originally deposited, transferred the funds to the Mexican government fulfilling its obligation. Unfortunately, much of the money was never returned to former braceros once they returned to their homes in Mexico. Instead, the money was misappropriated and stolen by Mexican officials.
After years of advocacy and pressure from former braceros and their families, the Mexican government agreed to establish a fund to repay beneficiaries the money owed to them. However, the Mexican government claims it cannot completely disburse the money because it no longer has accurate records needed to do so.
Community Organizing for Pension Payments: The time for intergenerational and transnational organizing is now
Since August 2013, a delegation of these now elderly braceros has been caravanning through the U.S. conducting a Marcha Historica por Una Deuda Historica, or "a historic march for a historic debt." They have been meeting with U.S. federal agencies to request they open the records and make public information regarding the bracero program. Specifically, they are demanding that the names of braceros and the amount of money withheld from their paychecks be made public. This information would allow these former braceros and their families to claim the money that is owed to them, and that was promised them, while helping to meet the economic needs of the U.S. economy.The historic march is also calling public attention to the fact that millions of these now elderly workers, some of whom have died or are living in conditions of extreme poverty, have yet to receive the 10% taken from their paychecks that, factored with accrued interest, is worth over $500 million in promised pensions. They will deliver a petition with demands for access to information in order to claim their pensions to Labor Secretary Tom Perez. If you support them, please sign and spread the petition.
In addition to calling attention to over $500 millions worth in stolen pensions for their participation in the U.S. government's first guest worker program, this 18-person caravan has also served to testify to how guest worker policies can legalize forced labor, abuse, and exploitation. Now is the time to stay engaged in these discussions, as the Obama administration is currently pushing a new guest worker program in its Comprehensive Immigration Reform agenda. Guest worker programs will also be top agenda for the upcoming United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development (UN HLD) happening early October in New York. This delegation has been a strategy that is part of a broader coalition with the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), to bring the genuine voices of migrants to the forefront of the global discourse on migration and development.
This broader campaign is led by the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), a global alliance of grassroots migrant organizations of which the ex-braceros are members. The IAMR will culiminate with New York activities on October 1-5, including its fourth international conference at St. Patrick's Church in Long Island City. For an information page and to sign up for email updates, please visit iamr4.com.
*opening video by Craig Sherod, "The Braceros at 80" on youtube
and at also available on the campaign information site: iamr4.com . While those interviewed are not necessarily those on the caravan or explicitly part of this ex-bracero movement, the interviews do express the conditions of labor that this movement is bringing attention to.
*color photo by Victoria Apollo
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