Texas Wants to Reinstate Remains of Mexican 'Bracero' Program Site

Socorro, Texas Wants to Make Over the Remains of Mexican 'Bracero' Program Site

The Rio Vista Farm in Socorro, Texas was once the arrival point for thousands of "braceros" who came to the U.S. to work on farms and railroads. But local officials are trying to make sure the site is a place that'll live to educate others for years to come.

READ: Mexican Government Owes Back Payments to Braceros

The labor program lasted for about 20 years from 1942 to 1964. It has been the United States' largest guest worker program, with an estimated 4.6 million short-term labor contracts issued to Mexican workers, with some coming through multiple times. While the program did not provide a path to U.S. citizenship, many braceros went on to be citizens anyway. 

"These men left their families, left their communities with the hope of economic opportunity and often worked incredibly hard and in very different kinds of conditions," said Peter Liebhold, curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The effort to preserve the 102-year-old site as a museum has gained more momentum with the election of President Donald Trump

"It wasn't perfect and there were a lot of really sad and ugly parts to this story," said Sehila Mota Casper, a field officer with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "But I think that it goes to show that when countries come together in a time of need, we can be stronger together."

The private nonprofit trust is working with local officials on the restoration and is seeking stories of those who came through Rio Vista Farm when it operated as a bracero processing center rom 1951 to 1964.

"Of course, the interest in places like Rio Vista has only increased as the national conversation about immigration policy has intensified," said Stephanie Meeks, CEO of the trust. 

PLUS: More than 90 Percent of Americans in Mexico Live There Illegally

So far the city has saved $1.1 million toward the site's restoration and federal, state and private grants have been awarded to help with the project.