WI: US uses Mexico as "dumping ground" for 1930s immigration backlog?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Dan1988, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    In the 1930s, the US was notorious for having a very complex and strict immigration system that tried to keep out as many people as possible so as to "reduce" the "burden" immigrants would place on the US. In particular, right up into World War II this would be used to try to keep out as many Jews as possible from the US (most notoriously the "voyage of the damned", of which my parents used to be friends with a survivor of that voyage). South of the Río Grande, however, Mexico was different - under its President, Lázaro Cárdenas del Río, anyone who was persecuted by fascist régimes around the world were welcome, especially Jews and refugees from the Spanish Civil War. Which leads to this question - could it have been possible for the US to try to shift more of its ever-increasing "backlog" in the 1930s and 1940s towards Mexican embassies and consulates to the effect that it would be "easier/quicker" to do so? And then, if one so wanted to go to the US rather than stay in Mexico and take advantage of Cárdenas' and the Mexican people's generosity, would be better able to try to negotiate passage to the US from Mexico?
     
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  2. karatachi "Stay woke" - Gitmo Interrogator

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    Mexico gets an influx of human capital.
     
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  3. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    The key period of time is 1935-1939. Once the war starts, the number of refugees getting out of Nazi occupied areas was quite small. The other issue is that the USA (State Dept) worked very hard to keep the flow of refugees to Latin America as small as possible - because of the immigration law. While there were all sorts of quotas, and outright exclusions (like Orientals), there were no quotas on immigration from the Western Hemisphere. The "fear/concern" was that refugees, especially Jews, would go to countries in the Western hemisphere where they would be residents or citizens and then be perfectly entitled to move to the USA. A good example of this concerns the SS St Louis where the ship (with 700+ Jewish refugees) came to Havana, and the initial agreement by the Cuban government to allow the refugees to land and get refuge there was reversed after furious efforts by the US State Dept to prevent it.

    I don't know how many Jewish refugees made it to Mexico during the 30s but my gut tells me it was small and for sure the US would not have had the consulates tell these folks "we can't help but two streets over the Mexicans will be happy to give you a visa".
     
  4. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Vera Cruz would be crowded.

    Lisbon became the dumping ground for those who did. Cheap residences became crowded as penny pinching refugees piled up there, searching for passage elsewhere.
     
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  5. David T Well-Known Member

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    To quote an old post of mine:

    ***
    I know that W. D. Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue is a controversial book, but Rubinstein may have a point in arguing that until the last moment many German Jews were just not that anxious to come to the US--which if true suggests that adjustment in quotas might have had less of an effect than is widely assumed:

    "Critics of America's immigration policies during this period have often focused upon the fact that Germany's quota was underfilled until 1939. In 1937, for instance, only 11,520 persons migrated to the United States from Germany, only 42 per cent of the possible total of 25,957 set by the 1924 quota. Critics of American policy have often attributed this to the 'paper walls' erected by America's consular bureaucracy in Germany, walls which were removed only at the last possible moment, when a vast tide of desperate refugees resulted, at last, in some humanitarianism being introduced into America's harsh immigration administration. There is, of course, an element of truth in this, and many individual cases of bureaucratic pettifoggery and narrow-mindedness, strongly suggestive of anti-semitism, can doubtless be found. Yet this begs perhaps the central question, a question which all critics of the refugee policies of the democracies during these years should certainly address and answer: how many German Jews had actually applied, at any particular point during the years of Nazi rule, to enter the United States (or any other country), but were denied entry through bureaucratic harshness or anti-semitism? No definitive data is available to answer this question, but such information as does exist strongly suggests that the answer is that, until Kristallnacht, many fewer German Jews actually wished to enter the United States than one would assume.

    "On 17 November 1938 — that is, just after Kristallnacht — Frances Perkins, the American Secretary of Labor, stated that the German—Austrian immigrant quota was then filled 'for at least fourteen months'. In other words, at this time perhaps only 32,000 Germans and Austrians (Jews and non-Jews) had actually applied to migrate to the United States. At the time perhaps 250,000 Jews remained in Germany and 125,000 in Austria. During the early period of Nazi rule, the number of German Jews who applied to migrate was, almost certainly, much smaller still, and the fact that the quota figure was not met until amazingly late must be attributed in large part to the unwillingness of Germany's Jews to apply to migrate to the United States until the very last moment...' https://books.google.com/books?id=6IaEAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA225
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
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  6. The Ranger Do not feed the trolls

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    Mexico might benefit from at least some of the immigrants.
     
  7. GeographyDude Well-Known Member

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    The corrupt officials making money in Europe provides the perfect excuse.

    Okay, if there are some good-hearted officials in Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, etc, who want to help, . . . well, given the Depression, you going to have to sell the fact that with their skills, these particular refugees will actually create more jobs than they take, and within a few short months at that. And even without overselling, which people sniff out and kick against, it's still going to be a tough sale.
     
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  8. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    Well, in Mexico's case one could argue - in a paternalistic, almost semi-racist way - that the Mexican Revolution had destroyed a lot of human capital which the refugees would have in abundance (well, alongside the inconvenient fact that the existing population would also be an existing source of building more human capital and capacity-building). Add to that Cárdenas' determination to be his own man instead of being yet another lackey of the Jefe Máximo himself and his policy to bring over as many people as possible because he staunchly supported the Second Spanish Republic, and there you go. And that's only if they stayed in Mexico. (Now, if the Mexican government could crack down on corruption within its diplomatic network, then it could help considerably in bringing more people across the Atlantic.)

    Somehow IOTL Cárdenas made opening the door and welcoming the door to refugees while also being a hero to poor Mexicans at the same time; I'm sure he would have come up with something similar ITTL to make it work, even if he allows more of the mestizo/indigenous majority to advance/aspire to the middle class.
     
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  9. GeographyDude Well-Known Member

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    Well, as long as it's not racist, I could almost use a paternalistic example. ;)

    I mean, that way, when people debate here at AH, we'd have a case to point to, that here's a case when paternalism worked out okay.
     
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  10. ShadowSpeaker Well-Known Member

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    Expansion of infrastructure as settlers go to uninhabited territories. The laying down of capital can spur more innovation
     
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  11. jerseyguy Well-Known Member

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    The 1924 immigration restrictions didn't place any quotas on Mexico and the rest of the Americas because US farmers in the Southwest wanted migrant labor from Mexico. "Dumping" refugees in Mexico would basically be letting them into the US with extra steps.