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Early history of Mexican migration to U.S. relevant today

The United States is often called a nation of immigrants. Though people lived in the part of the world now known as the U.S. for centuries, possibly longer, before European settlement here, ever since the original 13 colonies began people have been coming to America.

Over the years, the nature of U.S. immigration has changed. Changing trends include where the immigrants come from, and why they are coming here. Even when studying decades of immigration from one country -- in this case, Mexico -- interesting changes reveal themselves.

A historian with the Library of Congress recently spoke about the history of Mexican immigration to the U.S. with Time. According to her, the story starts in the 1890s, nearly 50 years after the U.S. annexation of Texas. Migrant workers journeyed to the Southwest, attracted by jobs in mining and agriculture.

The wave increased during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. The number of migrants jumped from about 20,000 per year to up to 100,000 per year during the 1920s.

Concerns in Congress over immigration, at least partially rooted in racism, led to the Immigration Act of 1924, which set quotas for migration from many countries. But Mexicans were not included, because Southwestern farmers wanted them as laborers. Then another war in Mexico led to a wave of immigration in the late 1920s.

In 1929, the Depression struck. Without jobs available, thousands of Mexican migrants went back to their native country, while hundreds of thousands were “repatriated” to Mexico by federal or municipal authorities.

It may not surprise our readers how familiar these trends sound. Economic opportunity continues to be a reason many immigrate to the U.S., while some who already live here sometimes try to limit migration.

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