How could a Mexican emigrate to the U.S. in the '60s?

Was it relatively easy to do so legally? What were the options? How common was it to do so illegally?

As far as the legal routes, was it pretty much the same throughout the sixties, or did it get easier/harder over the decade.

Also, if a Mexican was here, legally or illegally, would they have been able to join the military and fight in Vietnam?


Well, you can’t emigrate to anywhere. That aside, why would Mexican nationals specifically have been excluded from Vietnam?

It became much easier after 1965, when national-origin quotas were abolished.

Also, permanent residents and illegal immigrants are subject to the draft - this is current law and wasn’t much different then.

I know that it was still possible to migrate into the US legally while pregnant and have the newborn US citizen sponsor the whole family. Nowadays the newborn isn’t an automatic citizen any more.

Are you interested only in “unskilled labor”?

When my dad was in Northern California in the early 1960s, he would work with the Mexican farm labourers. Apparently they were temporary migrants who would follow the crops north starting in Mexico and working their way up the coast (the further north you went the later the picking season). Whether they were “documented” back in those days (and whether there anyone really cared about such things back then) I don’t know.

That’s not so - nothing has changed substantially on this front for quite some time.

Paged Eva Luna.

From the 1940s until the early 1960s, there was a formal program (the Bracero program) that recruited farm labor in Mexico and worked directly with American farmers. This wasn’t an ideal system - there were many abuses and it existed alongside less formal arrangements using illegal immigrants.

Eventually the bracero system was phased out, but farm labor continued with a wink and a nod.

Never mind.

Yes, I learned that this was a big sticking point among Mexicans towards the latter half of the 20th century. The US had always welcomed their labor, then the welcome abruptly ended, with no good reason they could see.

From what I understand Mexicans were excluded from the national origin quota regulations and as long as the economy was good and work was available they could basically come in unimpeded.

I see that someone on here already mentioned the bracero program, which brought a couple of hundred thousand to work on farms.

The newborn will automatically be a citizen, assuming they are born in the United States. However, this new US citizen cannot sponsor the entire family. They may be able to sponsor some family members, but realistically only after many decades have past.

Here is a list of family relationships for which sponsorships are allowed. The newborn’s parents cannot be sponsored until the newborn is 21 years of age, and other family members (1st through 4th Pref) will hit quotas that will delay sponsorship by years, if not decades.

There was a recent class-action settlement that awarded $3500 to surviving braceros, or their surviving spouses and children, who now live in the U.S. This was in lieu of deductions that were taken from the braceros’ wages, and that were held in trust by the Mexican government and were supposed to be paid out to the braceros after they finished their work and returned to Mexico. (There is some debate over where the wage deduction money ended up, but it sure didn’t end up being returned to the workers.)

As for the rest of the issues raised here, Nava, I got your PM, but I’m no historian; you want my boss for that - he’s been practicing immigration law for as long as I’ve been alive. I’ll see if I can catch him in a chatty mood, but he’s been really busy lately.

People born in the U.S. are still U.S. citizens by birth, except for certain very narrow exceptions (for children of diplomats and such).

There was also a period of time when, as the result of a class-action suit called Silva v. Levi/Silva v. Bell, people in the U.S. illegally could remain in the U.S. and apply for green cards based on the citizenship of their U.S.-born minor children. (I’ve been poking around for a good online summary, but the closest I’ve been able to find so far is this case - if anyone can find something more on-point, please post it.) But that hasn’t been the case since the 1970s, and current law is that U.S. citizen children must be over 21 in order to sponsor their parents. (That process is also slow as molasses and has other requirements, such as meeting income/asset guidelines.)

Is it really that slow? I thought it would be a similar process to a green card through marriage. Mine took about four months, from initial filing to approval. I guess its all relative - compared to being stuck in one of the quotas …

It is a similar process, but I’ve seen even marriage-based cases take more than a year via consular processing. And if the applicant needs a waiver for a previous period of unlawful presence, or an illegal entry, that is a separate application process which can also take more than a year. And that’s if nothing gets screwed up; I once had a straight marriage-based case with no hitches take almost 2 years because USCIS screwed up and didn’t notify the State Department that the US citizen spouse’s I-130 Immediate Relative petition had been approved, so the foreign spouse was never scheduled for a consular interview. We finally had to involve a Congressional liaison to get it fixed. And that was in CANADA, not some country where nothing works right anyway.

Thanks for all the info. Does anyone have a feel for how common it was for people to come over from Mexico in the early/mid sixties? And how common it was for them to stay legally, and how that was most likely done?

Is it true that immigrants can use the military to somehow improve their status or work toward citizenship? Again, back during that same era.

Sorry if this is not exactly what you’re looking for, as I’m not sure about the decade of the 1960s per se. But I do know in the early part of the 20th century, Mexicans crossed the border to work with a minimum of hassle. Not sure at exactly what point it tightened up. By the 1970s for sure, but probably by the 1960s. Maybe not too long after World War II. I do know whenever it happened, it was sudden, and after generations were able to work relatively freely north of the border, the Mexicans were put out at having the gate locked. I am recalling this from a course I took in political anthropology back in Texas.

I recall hearing of Filipinos in the US military back in the 1970s who were serving as part of a fast track to citizenship. But I don’t know if that was a program restricted only to certain nationalities.

Looks like it was.

P.S. to the OP - I get the feeling you are asking about the situation of a specific person, and that you are skeptical about whatever information you know about this person. I (and others) might be able to provide much more useful guidance if you provided further details re: the person and what you know about him/her, and why you are skeptical.

(And FWIW, the basic means of emigrating to the U.S. really haven’t changed much since the 1960s; it’s usually via the petition of a close family member who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident - spouse, parent, adult child, or sibling, although immigrating via a sibling takes bloody forever - or via work. And then, of course, there was the 1986 amnesty, and there have been various other ways to legalize after an illegal entry or visa overstay. But yes, overall, it was MUCH easier to cross the U.S./Mexico border with minimal oversight, either at an established border crossing or not, in the 1960s than it is now.)