Chapter

Reforming the Back Door: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 in Historical Perspective

Aristide R. Zolberg

in Immigration Reconsidered

Published in print January 1991 | ISBN: 9780195055108
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854219 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195055108.003.0012
Reforming the Back Door: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 in Historical Perspective

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After the abolition of slavery, this chapter observes, agricultural and industrial employers used a variety of “back-door” techniques to bypass restrictions on immigration and bring temporary Asian, European, and Mexican workers to the United States. Contract labor and the Mexican bracer program allowed agricultural employers simply to import workers, like goods, and export them when they were no longer needed. This chapter points out that the Constitution as written, considered imported laborers a category of imported things, not people. When restrictionist policy made labor scarce, for example, when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the 1924 Restriction Act reduced Asian and European labor supplies, employers found substitutes, such as Mexican laborers.

Keywords: United States; immigration reform; back-door policy; bracero program; restrictionist policy; contract labor

Chapter.  12939 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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