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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Braceros, most well over 80, wait to collect back wages...and wait and wait..

The New York Times reports that a Settlement Will Allow Thousands of Mexican Laborers in the U.S. to Collect Back Pay.

The settlement allows for the return of the 10% of wages that were withheld from Braceros while they worked as farmhands throughout the United States under the Bracero Program. The money was withheld as an incentive for immigrant workers to return to Mexico, but once they returned few if any received the money.  The settlement affects qualified Braceros who currently reside in the United States.  A separate settlement was reached between the Braceros living in Mexico and the Mexican government which paid those claimants similar amounts in settlements.

According to Wells Fargo documents the funds withheld from braceros paychecks were deposited into Banco Nacional de Credito Agricola, which in 1976 became Banrural.  However, in 1999 a spokesperson for Banrural, Hermes Castro Ojeda later claimed that no records existed that such deposits were received.  Castro Ojeda stated, "I don't know what happened with the funds.  They could have been cashed out or could have had another destiny." 

In November of 1999, Banrural bagan accepting claims but the documentation demands were onerous and many braceros lack the documentation which dates back to the early and late 1940's.

Banrural was liquidated in 2003 at a cost of $4.40 billion dollars or 48 billion Mexican pesos to Mexican taxpayers.  It's failure and subsequent liquidation continues to create trouble in the lives of thousands of Mexican citizens who rely on retirement pensions adminsistered by the bank (article is in Spanish).

To this date Mexican government officials deny any wrongdoing, but have not indicated what actually happened to the money. 

Still many baceros are hopeful that they will have their money returned, but more die each year just waiting for their governments action.

Under the settlement, scheduled for a hearing on final approval in a few months, Mexico would give each bracero, or a surviving heir, $3,500
When it comes to managing labor rights and the welfare of migrant workers in the United States, Mexico could be considered a Pimp.   The United States in turn would be considered, the John.  Historically,
it's been a rather convenient relationship for both sides, Mexico's government has been more than happy to feed the United States' insatiable lust for cheap immigrant labor.  Mexico in turn is more than willing to put out millions of Mexican migrant workers onto the streets of America to perform the most dirtiest and dangerous jobs available.

Today Mexico has become dependent on the remittances that millions of migrant workers send home.  Remittances to Mexico now contributes more than $20 billion dollars to the Mexican economy.  The amount is second to oil exports, tourism is the third largest source of revenue to Mexico.

Mexican officials have also quietly lobbied Mexican Hometown Associations (HTA) to increase their participation in the governments Tres-Por-Uno program.  The HTA's are groups of individuals who maintain active ties to the local towns from which they emigrated to the United States.  The HTA members are routinely encouraged by local and state elected officials to contribute money to build roads and other improvements to their towns via the Tres-Por-Uno progam.  The program has become an efficient way for Mexican officials to tap into additional building roads, churches and public plazas, but has done little in the way of promoting job creation.

The fact that neither the remittances or funds from the Tres-Por-Uno create jobs, ensures that Mexican migrant workers will continue to seek employment in the United States and for the forseable future there will always be a willing employer to provide a welcoming embrace to that migrant worker, even if it's only accompanied by a low wage and poor working conditions.

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