Former braceros fight for wage compensation

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image Miguel Bermudez, who is in his 70s, is one of hundreds of thousands of people who were part of the Bracero Program that allowed Mexicans to work in the United States. As part of that arrangement, a portion of the pay was withheld and was to be returned later.

That didn’t happen for all braceros.

Workers are supposed to return to Mexico to get their earnings. But many of the former braceros or their descendants can’t make the trip.

Juan Jose Gutierrez, president of the immigration group Vamos Unidos, says it is up to the Mexican government to make good on their promise.

“I mean, if someone takes your money, they have to give it back,” Gutierrez said. “That’s just the right thing to do. This was outrageous theft.”

But things are finally beginning to change.

Now, Mexican consulates all over America will be able to pass out $3,500 to braceros or their families because of a decision made earlier this month by the Mexican government. Bermudez was the first in line to get his check at the Los Angeles Mexican Consulate Monday, clutching the paperwork he filled out all of those years ago close to his chest.

He was able to get his check because he had registered during a now closed registration period.

But there are many more braceros or descendants all over America who aren’t yet registered to collect their checks in the United States. So immigration activists met with members of the Mexican consulate, urging them to allow another registration period. They also hope to use the American media to get the word out about the decision.

“We have asked members of the media to publish this phone number that ex-braceros can call to get assistance, and that [number] is (213) 746-6264,” Gutierrez said.

But Sergio Bermudez, Miguel’s son, says that this check doesn’t make up for the years of neglect from the Mexican government.

“Being his son, there is a lot of frustration after years of empty promises and watching him get the run around,” Sergio said.

Both he and Miguel hope all the former braceros and their families will finally get the retribution they deserve.

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