Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Message from Hutchinson to Migrants: Pay US Now and Maybe You Can Collect Later

Kay Bailey Hutchinson a Texas senator has been participating in the marathon bargaining negotiations on controversial bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. Yesterday, she proposed an amendment to the bill.

Hutchison's amendment seeks to ensure that illegal immigrants who are granted visas do not accrue Social Security benefits for any of the time they were in US illegally.

She also does not want them to be eligible for any long-term Social Security benefits if they are provided with legal residency and remain in the US. Instead, Hutchinson proposes that they receive a lump-sum payment of their Social Security withholdings once they return home.

Perhaps Ms. Hutchinson should be aware that what she is proposing was tried during the Bracero Program. History repeats itself and senators would be wise to reflect upon it. They should be reminded that the the n legislature worked out the details to the Bracero program that instituted a 10 percent deduction of all wages earned by Braceros during their employment in the US. The 10 percent was collected by the employer and forwarded to Wells Fargo and other US banks to be placed in a fund. The fund would serve as incentive for Braceros' to return to Mexico. The incentive would come in the form of a lump sum payment, a payment of 10 percent of the wages earned by the Bracero while toiling in the farm fields of the United States.

UC Davis wrote about the fate of such funds in their Rural Migration News, Vol. 8, N. 3, dated July 2001:

The California Legislature in May 2001 approved a resolution that urged the US to cooperate with Mexico to find and return the 10 percent forced savings that US employers of Braceros forwarded to Wells Fargo and other US banks in the 1940s. The funds were sent to Mexico, but apparently not paid to Braceros. Mexico formed a national commission in mid-May to investigate the missing funds; a report is due December 15, 2001.

The amount of money withheld and paid to Braceros is in dispute. Estimates are that $14 to $36 million was withheld between 1942 and 1949 (some sources say deductions stopped at the end of 1945). Those who say that only $14 million was withheld argue that most of the deducted funds were returned to Braceros as required- some $8 million was returned, they say.

Those who say that over $30 million was withheld argue that very little of the forced savings were returned, and that the US government and US banks are liable if the Mexican government lost the forced Bracero savings. Lawyers have filed several class-action lawsuits seeking as much as $500 billion in back wages, interest and punitive damages."

The class-action lawsuit hit a major obstacle once it was determined that US Banks did in fact forward such funds to various Mexican banks. The class-action lawsuit was unenforceable in Mexico and the focus then shifted on the Mexican government to explain what happended to the money and do right by the remaining Braceros.

In 2005 the Mexican government finally took steps towards compensating thousands of those remaining Braceros, some well into their 80's and 90's, but many no longer alive. The Mexican government announced that it was setting aside $26.5 Million Dollars. However, they like a, Tabacco company to it's victims, added that it would first create a commission to determine how, when and through what agency such funds would be disbursed.

Hutchison in a joint statement with Sen. John Cornyn said, "We are particularly concerned that we may be repeating the mistakes of the failed 1986 national amnesty." Hutchinson and Cornyn are absolutely correct, at least absolutely partially correct, but we are also speaking of millions of workers who are currently paying into a system and getting little in return. We are also talking about being fair, so we would do well to go much further back into our history and make every attempt not to repeat costly and inhumane mistakes of our past.

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