The early 1900's.
In 1900, the total Mexican-American population was estimated to be between 380,000 and 560,000. The early
1900's saw a sharp increase in the number of Mexican immigrants as economic conditions in Mexico worsened. In
1910, the Mexican Revolution broke out. This conflict plummeted Mexico into years of political and economic
chaos. The revolution also sparked a tremendous wave of immigration that continued until the 1930's.
Between 1910 and 1930, more than 680,000 Mexicans came to live in the United States. During the 1920's,
Mexicans accounted for more than 10 per cent of all immigration to the United States. Most Mexicans fleeing the
Mexican Revolution settled in the Southwest, where they took jobs in factories and mines or on railroads, farms,
In 1917, the United States entered World War I (1914-1918), and thousands of Mexican Americans volunteered for
service in the U.S. armed forces. The wartime economy also provided new opportunities for Mexican Americans.
Some were able to move into better-paying, skilled occupations in construction and in the war industries.
Despite these gains, Mexican Americans continued to suffer discrimination in jobs, wages, and housing. To fight
these conditions, they organized labor unions and took part in strikes to obtain higher wages and better working
conditions. Mexican Americans also formed civic groups to deal with their problems. In 1929, the major groups
merged to form the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
Immigration restrictions and growing discrimination. In 1917, the United States passed a law requiring all adult
immigrants to be able to read and write at least one language. In 1924, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration established
the Border Patrol to control illegal immigration across the Mexican-U.S. border. Strict enforcement of the 1917
adult literacy law led to a decline in Mexican immigration in the late 1920's. This decline continued through the
Great Depression--the economic hard times of the 1930's--when only about 33,000 Mexicans entered the United
The 1930's brought heightened discrimination against Mexican Americans. Many people viewed them as a drain
on the American economy because they held many low-paying jobs while other, "true" Americans went
unemployed. In response to such angry views, the U.S. and Mexican governments cosponsored a repatriation
program that returned thousands of Mexican immigrants to Mexico.
The program was intended to encourage people to return voluntarily to Mexico, but thousands were deported
against their wishes. Many of these immigrants had lived in the United States for more than 10 years. Their
American-born children were U.S. citizens. In some cases, adults who were deported were U.S. citizens who were
mistakenly or intentionally forced to leave their country. In California especially, many Mexican Americans were
placed in detention camps, where they were mistreated by government officials. Of the approximately 3 million