Reforming the Back Door: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 in Historical Perspective
After the abolition of slavery, this chapter observes, agricultural and industrial employers used a variety of “back-door” techniques to bypass restrictions on immigration and bring temporary Asian, European, and Mexican workers to the United States. Contract labor and the Mexican bracer program allowed agricultural employers simply to import workers, like goods, and export them when they were no longer needed. This chapter points out that the Constitution as written, considered imported laborers a category of imported things, not people. When restrictionist policy made labor scarce, for example, when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the 1924 Restriction Act reduced Asian and European labor supplies, employers found substitutes, such as Mexican laborers.
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