Deportation of Half a Million People to Mexico in the 1930s Did Not Create Jobs

In a report on the employment effects of repatriation of people of Mexican descent, economists surveyed the forced repatriation of people of Mexican descent to determine if immigrants really did take American jobs and drive down wages. They found that the mass expulsion didn’t create jobs and in fact did the opposite. The job markets shrank more in places that had expelled more Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and there was actually higher unemployment for the remaining residents in those places.

From 1929 to 1937, the US forced out between approximately 400,000 and 500,000 people of Mexican descent, in an attempt to protect American jobs during the Great Depression. Scholars estimate that at least a quarter or a third of them were American citizens — born in the US. Such compelled repatriation amounted to a period of odious civil rights violations, involving raids, checking public employee rolls for Mexican-sounding names and guards accompanying mentally ill patients to the border.

These expulsions reduced the labor force by one third in El Paso, Texas and by 15 to 20 percent in southern California. However, no tests were performed to determine if this ameliorated the local economy, according to Giovanni Peri, one of the economist authors. Therefore, the report’s authors evaluated census data from 1930, 1940, and 1950 to examine 893 cities around the US.

Their findings suggest that the mass expulsion didn’t create jobs but either had no effect or reduced employment and depressed wages. The Trump administration has pursued increased deportations from the US with Trump alleging that it would help boost jobs and wages for native Americans. Peri’s studies have disproved the perennial argument scapegoating immigrants as exacerbating unemployment.

You can read the full report: “The Employment Effects of Mexican Repatriations: Evidence From the 1930s”, By Jongkwan Lee, Giovanni Peri, and Vasil Yasenov.