Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  153. White House Statement Announcing the Establishment of the President's Commission on Migratory Labor  
June 3, 1950

THE PRESIDENT today established, by Executive order, a five-man Commission on Migratory Labor to make a broad study of conditions among migratory workers in the United States and of problems created by the migration of workers into this country.

The President appointed Maurice T. Van Hecke, now professor of law, North Carolina University, Chairman of the Commission, and named as the other members: Robert E. Lucey, Catholic Archbishop of San Antonio, Tex.; Paul Miller, chief, University of Minnesota Extension Service; William Leiserson, former chairman of the Mediation Board, and Peter H. Odegard, University of California, professor of political science.

The Executive order creating the Commission directs it to report by December 15, 1950.

The Commission's study will center upon three important and related questions:

I. The social, economic, health, and educational conditions among migratory workers in the United States, and responsibilities now being assumed by Federal, State, county, and municipal authorities to alleviate conditions among these workers.

2. The problems created by the migration into the United States of alien workers for temporary employment, and the extent to which alien workers are now required to supplement the domestic labor supply.

3. The extent of illegal migration of foreign workers into the United States, and whether and how law enforcement measures may be improved to eliminate illegal migration.

The number of migratory workers in the United States has been variously estimated at from 1 to 5 million workers.

Previous studies have shown that in many instances living standards among migratory workers and their families are markedly low those of other elements in the population, and that because of the absence of a fixed residence as well as their specific exemption in various laws, the migratory workers are frequently denied the benefits of Federal, as well as State and local, social legislation.

Besides the domestic migratory workers, the United States since the war has imported farm laborers, principally from Mexico. The migration from Mexico is governed by an international agreement which was negotiated on several occasions, the current agreement having been signed in 1949. A number of organizations have taken a stand against the further importation of alien workers, contending that domestic labor can fulfill the needs in the United States, while other organizations have insisted that agricultural production would suffer if employers could not fall back upon alien labor in instances where domestic labor proved to be insufficient.

Legal migrants from Mexico have been supplemented for many years by illegal migrants, called "wetbacks" in the Southwest because of their traditional method of entry by wading or swimming the Rio Grande. Thousands of illegal entrants are now being deported each month by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, but no means has yet been found for completely sealing the border against further illegal entries.

The order directs all of the Government departments to cooperate with the Commission in its work. The several departments affected joined in preparing the order and identifying the problems which the Commission will study.

NOTE: The Commission was established by Executive Order 10129 (3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 317).

On June 23, 1950, the White House announced that the Commission was receiving data from different Federal agencies on the various aspects of migratory labor problems and was planning hearings with private and church organizations in the near future.

The Commission's report, entitled "Migratory Labor in American Agriculture," is dated March 26, 1951 (Government Printing Office, 188 pp.).
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.