A conversation with Silvia Niccolai, Francis J. Mootz III and Leticia Sauced

The United States is the perfect representation of the promised land, an open country as a melting pot of opportunities for everyone.

The two guests of this Global Conversation have explored the roots of US immigration policies in history with a present-day comparison.

After a very interesting introduction of Mrs. Silvia Niccolai, the two main guests, Mr. Francis J. Mootz and Mrs. Leticia Saucedo have underlined the intersection of labor, migration law, minority rights as the mirror of United States’ social history.

Both the guests have dedicated a huge part of their studies and research projects to bring light on the life condition of immigrants; equality, nondiscrimination policies, and rights.

The following presentation will focus on USA immigration policies and past events.

The discussion has been divided between the two opinions of Mr. Jay Mootz and Mrs. Leticia Saucedo: in the first part Mr. Mootz analyzed the “Braceros program”; then Mrs. Saucedo will make an overview on the complexity of today and contemporary immigration laws.

Racist inheritance is difficult to delete from history

jayFrom 2006 to 2012, Francis J. Mootz has served as a Member of the Board of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. In 2012, he joined the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, and after a five-year term as a dean, he joined the faculty as Professor of Law. Mr. Mootz teaches and writes on particular doctrine areas, such as contract, sale, and employment law. In his studies, he analyzed the relationships between law and contemporary European philosophy; “Rhetorical Knowledge in Legal Practice and Critical Legal Theory”. (2006)


Mrs. Saucedo is an expert in employment, labor, and immigration law. She has focused her research on the impact of employment and labor laws on low-wage workplaces and the responses of immigrant workers to their living conditions. From 2010, she is a member of the American Law Institute. Currently, she is a Professor of Law at U.C. Davis School of Law.

The spotlight has been put on the paradox of U.S Immigration Policies and the consequent effect on employment.

In this case, the conception of “hospitality” that everyone knows needs a contextualization in the American framework and the curious aspect concerns the possible linkages with the immigration question in the rest of the world; expectations to the guest to give more than what the host can offer.

Trump’s current ideas about immigrants in the United States of America, in a racist way, are rooted in history: The Braceros Programs (1942 to 1964), an example of the guest worker approach.

The Braceros guest worker program began during the Second World War; Mexico and the United States entered a bilateral agreement where the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement with Mexico was signed. (4.8 million workers)

This agreement guaranteed adequate living conditions and a minimum wage for the workers. In reality, workers were treated as servants that were “tolerated” only as long as they were useful for the goals of US landowners. 10% of wages were delivered to Mexico in order to make sure workers will go back home to work.  In the end the Mexican government stole about $500 million from workers that performed the assigned jobs in the USA.

It ended with “Operation Wetback” to expel the guests that had become pests.

Only men were allowed to work and the Mexican government, had paternalistic concerns to avoid the exploitation of its workers; past abuses of the past in the 1930s.

Mexico requested living conditions, decent wages equal to the American ones, no young workers under fourteen years old; on paper it was everything perfect, and smart requirements.

IMG_9170The picture expresses the general condition of workers: the instrument that they used to work with is called “el cortito”; an inefficient and brutal small hoe. Mexicans had long hours of backbreaking work with low quality of food and housing; moreover, they suffered abuse and discrimination also in towns.

In this case “patriotism” is just an excuse to hide the reality of things concerning work in American farms. Mexicans were treated like machines and disinfected like animals. In 1951, the worst part of the picture appeared: Operation Wetback. A racist approach was the main rule that the nation followed to banish Mexicans from society. Thousands of Mexicans were sent back to Mexico because the amount was too much to handle for the United States.

“Braceros is a part of a long temporary worker tradition”

In this way Mrs. Saucedo started the second part of the conversation, analyzing the past and the present situation of foreign workers.

In the First World War, there was a similar program to Bracero’s one: it involved temporary Mexican workers to perform hard labor’ tasks in the USA; It ended in the late 1920s.

These days, everyone has in mind a clear picture of how a farmworker should look: a popular image of Mexican males in the fields; the same goes for hotel maids or landscapers. There is a specific association between job-ethnicity that is rooted in the past immigrants’ tradition that no one can erase.

Braceros program created “service workers” and “agricultural workers” where the lack of protection for employees is popular and thousands of people are at risk even today day. Again, the expectations for the guest to give more than what the host can offer are present also in this case.

Racial construction of servant workers has been documented not only by media but also by films and documentations for “non-free labor” with undocumented work arrangements.

The irony in the “Be our guest” policy is also visible in the dynamics of Disney corporation: an example is the “Be our guest” restaurant in Disney World where some workers are part of these temporary programs.

Programs’ rules, in theory, are intended to protect workers but in practice there is no strengthening of the rights of workers that can fall in abuses.

At the end of the conversation there was an interesting speech from Mr. Giorgio Repetto. He is an Associate Professor in bodies governed by public law at the University of Perugia, Italy. He linked the current situation of immigrants with the past experience of Italian workers who went abroad to find a job and build a family.

It is a problem that the world community has in common but we are not able to find a solution in order to live a life worthy of being lived.

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