Children are the future, and the fifth graders at California’s Bell Gardens Elementary School are proving we are in good hands. After learning about the Mexican Repatriation of the 1930s, and scratching their heads wondering why this part of history was conveniently left out of their textbooks, they took the issue to the state – and they won.
According to Remezcla, Leslie Hiatt's Los Angeles classroom involves lessons on the good and bad of U.S. history, meaning they'll learn all about the Constitution as well as the Trail of Tears, the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese internment camps. Once Hiatt taught her fifth-graders about the Mexican Repatriation, that time in the early moments of the Great Depression when President Herbert Hoover started the program that would expel as many as 1 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, they got worried, as Hoover’s policy was frighteningly similar to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposals.
“Considering the national political climate, my kids are very afraid of what will happen if Donald Trump becomes president, because they are scared to death for the future and security of their families,” Hiatt said.
This fear moved them to action. The little ones started by writing several letters to President Barack Obama, who responded with encouragement but little answers. Hoping to learn more, the students even interviewed survivors of the repatriation.
Armed with more knowledge, they met with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who urged them to enter her annual “There Ought to Be a Law” contest. They did, and they won, allowing them to travel to Sacramento in 2015 to testify in the Assembly Education Committee. They spoke about not wanting history to repeat itself as well as the need for young people to know the full history of the U.S., not a sweetened version.
“Our history books discuss the migration of many people, including the Japanese Americans who were displaced in World War II,” student Makayla Rocha said. “As we study further, we learned of the mass migration of Mexicans, which began in the 1930s, and in our search we were unable to find any information about this subject.”
In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation pressing textbook manufacturers to include the Mexican Repatriation in their books.
With this major win under their belt, Hiatt’s new students are now pushing for a federal apology for the bleak moment in U.S. history.