Imagine working your hands to the bone and not getting paid for it. Well, around 35,000 braceros are still waiting to be compensated for work they completed close to 50 years ago. During World War II, an agreement between Mexico and the United States created the Bracero program, which brought thousands of Mexican men to the U.S. to do manual work on farms and building railroads.
As part of the program, the Mexican government agreed to hold 10% of the braceros wages in saving accounts for later. Unfortunately, not all braceros received their savings. Last week, a small group of former workers and their family members gathered outside of the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles to demand unpaid wages from the Mexican government. Juan Javier Jimenez, 73 yrs. old, was one of those braceros, toiling for program in Arizona from 1956 – 1959. Jimenez and a thousand others are still waiting to receive their savings, estimated at approximately $4,000 per worker.
"For the Mexican government to be treating these individuals as though they’re not deserving of their compensation — and they’re actually receiving sort of like charity, like if they were beggars — when this is the money they earned and it was taken unjustly from them. They deserve to get it," Juan Jose Gutierrez, activist and director of Vamos Unidos, an immigrant rights organization, told Southern California Public Radio (SCPR).
Guiterrez plans on taking the braceros' concerns to the acting Mexican consul general next week.