Repatriation During the Great Depression

Repatriation During the Great Depression

The Great Depression intensified racial discrimination against Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans. Many rural Southwestern residents migrated to cities in search of work and social services. Cities like Los Angeles attracted Mexicans because of established Hispanic neighborhoods. By 1930 the Mexican population of Los Angeles was second only to Mexico City.

As Depression unemployment rose, workers became more desperate. Anger toward Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans grew. White Americans pressured employers to offer jobs only to citizens. Sometimes, even non-white citizens were excluded from jobs. The welfare system also began to discriminate against people of Mexican descent, offering them fewer public benefits.

Early in the Great Depression, federal and local governments developed plans to repatriate Mexican workers from the United States to Mexico. In 1930, President Herbert Hoover claimed that Mexicans were a contributing factor to the Great Depression. He ordered the Labor Department to develop a deportation program. The Mexican government cooperated with the U.S. government in the expectation that some of the deportees would be skilled workers. By 1935, more than 400,000 people were repatriated to Mexico, including U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. Another 85,000 Mexicans repatriated voluntarily to Mexico. Most of the returnees continued to live in poverty in Mexico. Some attempted to return to the United States, where they were denied entry.

In 1929 Mexican Americans founded the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This organization worked to eliminate segregation and to protect these citizens’ constitutional rights. After the outbreak of World War II, the U.S. government hired LULAC advisors to serve as liaisons to the Hispanic American community.

Source: Repatriation During the Great Depression
History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “Depression, War, and Civil Rights,”

Back to top