“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores…” These sympathetic words incribed on a bronze plaque in the interior of the pedestal of the statue of Liberty seem to escape from the silent lips of Lady Liberty herself and whispered into the ears of waves of immigrants from the Old World as they sailed past her upon their arrival at New York Harbor.
Historically, America is a nation that was built by immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin American countries. Immigrants came to escape religious persecution or famine in their own countries or to look for better opportunities hoping to make some money to send back home to their families. And, quite a number came for adventure. The predominantly Roman Catholic Irish, for instance, came to escape reliqious persecution of the church of England and the Great Famine of 1845-1850.
While escape from poverty was also one of the compelling reasons why Mexican immigrants came to America, many came to be reunited with their families driven with the desire to live and work in a country that had been historically and culturally attached to their native land. In the years prior to 1845, the present-day states of Texas, California, Utah, Nevada, as well as parts of Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico were all part of the sovereign country of Mexico.
Texas gained independence from Mexico following the defeat of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to the the Texan forces of Sam Houston’s at the Battle of San Jacinto. However, when the Republic of Texas was annexed to the United States, the Mexican American War erupted. Following several bitter battles between the two forces, American soldiers occupied Mexico City. Outnumbered militarily with many of its major cities occupied by the Americans, Mexico entered into the Treat of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848. Part of the terms of the treaty was the so-called Great Cession, which resulted in Mexico’s loss of more than 500,000 square miles of its territory to the United States.
The annexed territories contained thousands of Mexican families who were given the choice to become US citizens by the American government. Many of these families moved farther south in Mexico, but a lot more opted to stay. Many Mexican immigrants came to America to reunite with kin who chose to stay in the United States. In modern times, many Mexican immigrants came to America to work in canning factories in labor-starved border cities. In fact, most of these Mexican immigrants were recruited by canning factories who found it more lucrative to hire low cost migrant labor.