Mass eviction to Mexico in 1930s spurs apology
By PETER HECHT
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Carlos Guerra was only 3 years old when Los Angeles County authorities came to his family's house in Azusa and ordered his mother, a legal United States resident, and her six American-born children to leave the country.
It was 1931. The administration of President Herbert Hoover backed a policy that would repatriate hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans, more than half of them United States citizens.
Amid the economic desperation of the Depression, Latino families were viewed as taking jobs and government benefits from "real Americans."
On Sunday, Senate Bill 670 — the so-called "Apology Act for the 1930s Mexican Repatriation Program" — becomes official. It acknowledges the suffering of tens of thousands of Latino families unjustly forced out of the Golden State that was their home.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill Oct. 7, but vetoed a companion measure — Senate Bill 645 — that would have created a commission to study paying reparations to survivors of the 1930s repatriations.
Jose Lopez Sr., was a factory worker at the Ford assembly plant when his family was ordered to Mexico after nearly two decades in the United States. He wound up cutting sugar cane and died in poverty in the Mexican state of Michoacan.
"I think an apology is the least they can do," said his son, Jose Lopez, 78, a retired autoworker in Detroit who came to testify on behalf of the California bill.
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