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A Quiet Victory for Latino Rights

FDR and the Controversy Over "Whiteness"

By Patrick D. Lukens

Publication Year: 2012

In 1935 a federal court judge handed down a ruling that could have been disastrous for Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and all Latinos in the United States. However, in an unprecedented move, the Roosevelt administration wielded the power of "administrative law" to neutralize the decision and thereby dealt a severe blow to the nativist movement. A Quiet Victory for Latino Rights recounts this important but little-known story.<br><br>To the dismay of some nativist groups, the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted annually, did not apply to immigrants from Latin America. In response to nativist legal maneuverings, the 1935 decision said that the act could be applied to Mexican immigrants. That decision, which ruled that the Mexican petitioners were not "free white person[s]," might have paved the road to segregation for all Latinos.<br><br>The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), founded in 1929, had worked to sensitize the Roosevelt administration to the tenuous position of Latinos in the United States. Advised by LULAC, the Mexican government, and the US State Department, the administration used its authority under administrative law to have all Mexican immigrants--and Mexican Americans--classified as "white." It implemented the policy when the federal judiciary "acquiesced" to the New Deal, which in effect prevented further rulings.<br><br>In recounting this story, complete with colorful characters and unlikely bedfellows, Patrick Lukens adds a significant chapter to the racial history of the United States. 

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

An additional insight occurred when I took Professor Darlis Miller’s New Mexico History course. In that class, she assigned a family history paper, and I started out quite happy that my mother’s family claimed Josefina Jaramillo, Kit Carson’s wife, as a relative. But after perusing a few books on Carson...

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pp. xv-xvi

Although Noel Stowe’s contribution ended when I completed at ASU, his influence on my development there shaped this book. He helped me to grow a strong sense of public and policy history, which helps to explain how this research ended up in the arena of policy analysis...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-17

This ruling came at a time of transition in American history. In the previous decade, a conflict had emerged between “old America” and “new America.” Among the controversial issues about which Americans quarreled during the 1920s were Prohibition, evangelical fundamentalism...

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2. Nativists and Immigration Law to 1924

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pp. 18-32

By 1910, V. S.’s business acumen led him to challenge the practices of the Associated Press and the way it treated western newspapers. When the AP sought to keep the western papers from forming their own news-sharing organization, V. S. was elected to the AP board of directors and remained there...

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3. Mexican Restriction Debates, 1924–1930

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pp. 33-66

At first there were only a few advocates of a Mexican quota in Congress. A few bills emerged in 1926, but they did not go very far. One reason that the issue took several years to peak is that even many of the major restrictionists did not support a Mexican quota. In March 1925 Pennsylvania Senator...

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4. Good Neighbors and New Dealers

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pp. 67-77

After World War II, historians debated whether or not FDR’s Republican predecessors should receive credit for laying the foundations of the Good Neighbor Policy. Some called the era of nonintervention during the Harding through Hoover years a start, while others argued that nonintervention...

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5. Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Civil Rights

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pp. 78-104

Several arguments had originated in Latin America, where racial theorists began to develop interesting interpretations of eugenics. While European and North American eugenicists used “science” to prove the “superiority” of the Anglo-Saxon race, Latin American (particularly Mexican) eugenicists...

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6. The Andrade Decision

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pp. 105-124

Prior to becoming a federal judge, John Knight served as district attorney in Wyoming County, New York, spent four years in the state assembly, and then moved over to the state senate (figure 6.2). From 1924 until his resignation from the state senate in 1931, Knight served as president pro tem. He had....

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7. Efforts to Thwart the Andrade Decision Using the Traditional Approach

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pp. 125-138

The Mexican ambassador, Francisco Castillo Nájera, quickly brought the matter to the attention of his superiors in Mexico City. First, he spoke by telephone directly to secretary of foreign relations, Eduardo Hay, on the thirteenth. In this conversation, he requested and received permission to...

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8. Applying Administrative Law to the Andrade Decision

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pp. 139-151

Hackworth and Flournoy brought this new information to the attention of Assistant Secretary of State R. Walton Moore and Edward Reed, chief of the Mexican Division, and reminded them of where the situation had been left in July 1936. Flournoy had to summarize the entire situation in detail...

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9. The Racial Classification Policy: Problems and Successes

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pp. 152-170

As soon as Edward Shaughnessy issued the May 18 order to the naturalization examiners, the Labor and Justice Departments allowed the pending cases to go before the judges in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York. Henry Hazard of the Immigration and Naturalization Service reported...

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10. Consequences, Unintended Consequences, and Failures

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pp. 171-183

Immigration restriction has a prominent place in the historical record of the Good Neighbor agenda. In May 1937, the Latin American press reported that US Secretary of State Cordell Hull had taken up the issue with the US Senate. Although the restrictionists had no success getting bills out of...


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pp. 185-210


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pp. 211-223


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pp. 225-231

About the Author

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pp. 233

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599646
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529025

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012