Labouring for Citizenship

  • Michael Sullivan


This article draws from the lessons of the Mexican-American labour movement’s internal conflict during the twentieth century about how to respond to new co-ethnic migration to consider what new immigrants and citizens owe to one another as workers in the current US immigration reform debate. For much of the twentieth century, Mexican-Americans were divided about how the US government should respond to new unauthorized and temporary legal immigration from Mexico. Though their class interests diverged, Mexican-American business and union leaders joined forces to lobby for border security and increased immigration enforcement. During the same period, progressive Mexican-American labour leaders advanced a countervailing message of transnational solidarity between newcomers and their settled immigrant compatriots. They further demanded that all Americans recognize the earned citizenship of immigrants who contributed to their families, communities and adopted nation through their labour.