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The Outpost Austin’s Best Barbecue 11:30-7:30 Daily, Except Sunday David and Marion Moss 345-9045 Highway 183 North z Our peculiar migration The Texas Good Neighbor Commission’s latest report to the governor is an eye-opener. Farm workers in South Texas, says the report, “are among the very lowest paid in the nation,” and consequently the statewide average wage for a farm worker is $1.58 an hour. The bracero program importing Mexican workers at legally regulated payscales, and with attendant protections, is inoperative. Not a single Mexican has been legally admitted to the country for farm work since 1969. It does not take a political scientist to figure out why. Factory farmers in a position to control the Nixon Administration’s farm policies knew very well that cutting off the bracero program would increase the flow of cheaper, unprotected wetbacks, and this is what has happened. In 1964, 42,000 Mexican wetbacks were expelled; in 1968, 151,700; but in 1973, 577.000. By the guesswork estimates, a million Mexicans enter the United States illegally every year to work on U.S. farms. This, says the Good Neighbor Commission, is “one of the largest uncontrolled migrations of modern times” and “the largest migration into the U-.S. since the early years of this century.” Wetbacks now come north under package deals that can include advice on how to get across the border, transportation at pick-up points, temporary lodging, and fake papers. “So north they go, hidden in car trunks, concealed under false crates, crammed in campers, trucks, and rental vans of all sizes,” sometimes fifty of them in a load. With a candor that one is not accustomed to in state agency documents, the GNC says that “For American employers seeking low-skill and low-cost workers, hiring the illegal alien is a very effective way of assuring profits. To them the foreign migrant represents a faceless, non-union labor force which they can use whenever they want, as long as they want, and still feel free of any responsibility. At the present time the’re is no penalty for hiring illegal aliens in Texas nor is there any obligation for the employers to determine the citizenship of their workers.” The commission endorses the Rodino bill in Congress to make farmers who 14 The Texas Observer Observations knowingly hire illegal alien workers liable for criminal penalties themselves. As it is now the hapless wetback bears the penalty: he is deported, and the farmer hires some more wetbacks, who can then be deported in their turn. Almost one out of three of the illegal aliens caught by the Border had been “previously expelled.” Nor does Texas adequately protect even native migrant farm workers. The Good Neighbor Commission finds it necessary to recommend that Governor Briscoe get in touch with the governors of “migrant labor consuming states” to coordinate efforts for the benefit of legal migrants. The commission proposes that the Migrant Camp Law’s standards be extended to camps for three or more workers, instead of being limited to camps for fifteen or more as at present. Workers in processing plants, canneries, and cotton gins may not be covered by the camp law’s terms, and the commission says they should be. Even worse, the Labor Agency Law, regulating those who manage the migrant workers, is being enforced now in the Lower Valley by “one inspector and one secretary,” and the commission is driven to ask: “Is it any wonder that compliance has broken down completely, and that the required monthly reports from all labor agents are missing and that worker complaints go unresolved? Further, it should be mentioned that the [Texas Department of Labor] has not published its Report on Migratory Labor Movement since 1968.” This is an old story, a tale twice told. The estimated annual wetback invasion in the early 1950’s was a million persons a year. I went down to the Valley in 1954 and worked on a radio/TV station all summer, watching the wetback thing. Bodies occasionally washed up on the banks of the Rio Grande wetbacks who hadn’t made it, young girls, mothers. You heard of a father holding onto his child’s hand, losing his grip, losing his child to the waters.. Wages were 20 and 30 cents an hour; disease and violence were commonplace. The Border Patrol rounded them up off the farms in great batches, put them in a high-wire detention camp in McAllen, and shipped them back to the interior by boat, by plane, and by train. I will remember the scenes at the camp and the train station in Reynosa as long as I live. The bracero program was designed to let some Mexicans improve their lot by coming in to work on U.S. farms legally at regulated wages and with other benefits that also protected American workers from dirt-cheap and victimized competition, but now the government and the big farmers who dominate government farm policy have returned us to the times of ruthless and unlimited exploitation. HBG on JFK Cong. Henry Gonzalez said the other day, in the context of the arrogant behavior of Oscar Wyatt’s Coastal States, that perhaps the time has come when we should “Texanize” what is already ours our natural resources. Gonzalez also had an important statement on the John Kennedy assassination in his newsletter. I quote this en toto: “Possible Restudy of JFK Assassination: Quite a bit of interest has been generated by persons throughout the nation and some of the international press in my interest in restudying the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I didn’t put any credence in the theory of some that the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination until the revelations last year about CIA-connected persons involved in the Watergate crimes. My suspicions have been revived and fortified and I feel we should look into it. However, it would not be possible to get a congressional investigation underway right away. The House Judiciary Committee would be the most appropriate committee to handle it, but of course, this committee is not in a position to take such a project on until the impeachment inquiry is over. I suppose at some point it may be possible to get a special committee appointed to restudy it, but in light of what the Congress has facing it this year, this is something I will have to think in terms of possibly urging during the 94th Congress. In the meanwhile I welcome any information or material that anyone has that is relevant to the matter.” The larger problem We are awash in corruption. The indictment of Senator Gurney on charges of shaking down contractors in exchange for influence for federal bounty is just one more sting for our already dazed political sensibilities. The whole top echelon of the executive branch, having quit under fire, fight for their freedom every day in the courts. The President, charged by a grand jury as a co-conspirator, claims he is beyond the reach of the courts on evidence in criminal cases. Jake Jacobsen, formerly Lyndon Johnson’s White House assistant, is reportedly prepared to allege that he