Originally Published: February 7, 2017 6:01 a.m.
President Trump’s new get-tough attitude on immigration has already stopped one Mexican from coming to the United States.
Trouble is, the Mexican who stayed home was President Enrique Pena Nieto.
President Nieto wasn’t coming here illegally, and he wasn’t captured in Jeff Davis County, Texas, by one of Trump’s friends in the Border Patrol.
But the Mexican leader and President Trump decided to scrap their planned summit next week after trading some testy tweets about whether or not Mexico was going to pay for a new wall along the U.S. southern border.
There won’t be another Mexican-American war.
President Nieto will be back in good time and he and Donald will make their deal.
But before the two leaders meet face-to-face — and before Trump starts spending his weekends in Texas pouring concrete footers on the border — Trump should get his busy staff to dust off, update and improve the Bracero program.
Most Americans — especially the politicians in Washington — have no idea what the Bracero program was.
But from 1942 until 1964, when the federal government’s program was eliminated, it made illegal immigration from Mexico largely unnecessary by allowing the free flow of Mexican agricultural workers into and out of the United States.
Over 22 years, about 4.5 million Mexican nationals worked temporarily on the vegetable and fruit farms of California and the Southwest.
The braceros were poor peasants. They were seasonal workers. They did hard agricultural work that not enough Americans were willing to do.
They were greeted and processed by U.S. officials at collection stations at the border.
They signed contracts with the farmers and companies that employed them, then worked long hours for low wages.
It was far from perfect. The braceros weren’t treated as well as they should have been by their bosses or the government. They often suffered discrimination.
But they were free to come and go as temporary guest workers of America, not illegal invaders.
They could work, save their money and, unlike illegal immigrants today, could then easily return to Mexico.
The United States and Mexico both benefitted from the Bracero program, which in the long run had a huge impact on American culture, the agriculture business and the northerly flow of illegal immigration.
The program was ended in 1964 in part because of President Kennedy’s concerns that the cheap labor of braceros was hurting American workers and because of political pressure from self-interested farm labor unions.
By ending it and replacing it with nothing, the federal government and Congress essentially created the illegal immigration issue in the United States.
It turned good men from Mexico who wanted to come here to work into criminals.
They had to break into the United States to find work and then break out of America if they wanted to see their families again.
Many Mexican immigrants here illegally had little choice but to stay and then have their families sneak across the border to join them.
Fifty years and millions of illegal immigrants later, the Southern border is closed in both directions and President Trump is looking to waste billions on a wall he thinks will keep it that way.
But before he starts construction, he should get rid of the government regulations, laws and red tape that have created our illegal immigration problem.
Then he should come up with a new version of the Bracero program, so that the Mexicans who want to work in America can come in legally through a gate, not over a wall.
Copyright ©2017 Michael Reagan. Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press). He is the founder of the email service reagan.com and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his websites at www.reagan.com and www.michaelereagan.com. Send comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com. Follow @reaganworld on Twitter.