The immigration debate, 100 years ago

I am currently reading the biography of William Gorham I mentioned in my post on using online resources for researching his life. Here is what the book, written by Gorhman’s Japanese colleagues, has to say on the Japanese in California about a century ago.

Almost the entire Japanese immigrant population in the U.S. was located in the state of California or in other parts of the Pacific coast. They had left their native areas and immigrated to a foreign nation empty-handed, but also had attained success in the United States. The disparity in customs, along with their resulting problems, as well as the difficulty of learning a new language, all were overcome by these immigrants and they were able to make substantial successes of their lives. At the same time, from the point of view of racial rejudice or from the point of view of the struggle to make a living, there was the inevitable friction as well as competition that came about between the Japanese and the white immigrants from Europe. In fact, the substantial successes attained by the Japanese immigrants, if anything, resulted in more opportunity for them to be viewed with jealousy by immigrants from other nations.

However, capitalists in the state of California had always valued highly the calmness and willingness with which the Japanese would stick to work, as well as their capabilities for labor. They were also appreciative of the immigrants’ ingenuity and resourcefulness. In fact, they were amazed at the Japanese immigrants’ cleverness exhibited in growing vegetables and in catching fish. Although white laborers used a slogan to oppose them — “Keep California White” (i.e. keep the state of California forever for whites only), as far as the capitalists were oncerned, they sided with the Japanese immigrants and used the slogan, “Keep California Green” (i.e., keep the state of California green with produce from farms and gardens). (p. 26-27)

According to the Sept 22, 2006 NYT:

Stepped-up border enforcement kept many illegal Mexican migrant workers out of California this year, farmers and labor contractors said, putting new strains on the state’s shrinking seasonal farm labor force.
The tightening of the border with Mexico, begun more than a decade ago but reinforced since May with the deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops, has forced California growers to acknowledge that most of their workers are illegal Mexican migrants. The U.F.W. estimates that more than 90 percent of the state’s farm workers are illegal.
For decades, Mr. Ivicevich said, migrant pickers would knock on his door asking for work climbing his picking ladders. Then about five years ago they stopped knocking, and he turned to a labor contractor to muster harvest crews. This year, elated, he called the contractor in early August. Pears must be picked green and quickly packed and chilled, or they go soft in shipping.

”Then I called and I called and I called,” Mr. Ivicevich said.

The picking crew, which he needed on Aug. 12, arrived two weeks late and 15 workers short. He lost about 1.8 million pounds of pears.