187853 Race, Disease, and Criminality: Creating the Deportable Mexican in 1940s California

Monday, October 27, 2008: 11:00 AM

Natalia Molina, PhD , Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA
In the early 1940s, just as the United States was launching the now widely known Bracero Program, a temporary contract labor with Mexico, Mexican laborers in Californiaxs Imperial Valley were organizing to improve working conditions. Although many of these labor organizers were established community members and had friends and families in their community, they were deported because of their labor organizing work. During this time period, it was not uncommon to attempt to deport labor leaders for their organizing efforts, but usually they were accused of being communists in these cases. Those involved in the deportations of Mexicans in the Imperial Valley, however, which included border patrol agents, local employers, and immigration officers, deported the labor organizers on the grounds that they were health threats. They used their health records obtained from the clinics they visited to claim they had violated immigration laws by becoming public charges because of their use of public health clinics. This case demonstrates how notions of health were key in the constructing Mexicans as criminal and illegal, thus cementing ties between race and disease. In this presentation, I also discuss the methodological challenges of doing work on race and disease when so many of sources related to this subject are institutionally produced. It demonstrates how voices are silenced through the production of historical documents, the resonances and traces left in this process, and what this can tell us more broadly about early to mid 20th century intersections of citizenship, health, "normality," race and racialization.

Learning Objectives:
1 - Explain strategies of disrupting activities of labor organizers in Imperial Valley by portraying them as communists and public health threats. 2 - Describe the role of public clinics in the processes of deportation of labor organizers 3 - Identify mechanisms that silenced racial processes through historical records.

Keywords: Labor, Migrant Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Ph.D. in History
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.