Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


David Brotherton

Subject Categories

International and Area Studies | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Sociology


Bracero Program, Exploitation, Contract Labor System, Social Bulimia, Capitalism, Migration


This thesis explores the exploitability of migrants working in the United States. Historically, the United States government has emphasized the economic utility of migrant workers, while ignoring their basic human rights. Policymakers have viewed these people as a disposable work force and seek to control them by generating widespread fear of deportation, racialized segregation, discriminatory treatment, and with the help of governing and policing entities willing to turn a blind eye to these injustices, as long as they continue to profit financially.

This thesis will look at the Bracero Program with a historic lens to exemplify the system of exploitation created by the United States. Understanding the history of immigration policies and situating the Bracero Program within American history is helpful in understanding the lived experiences of Mexican migrants contracted to work in the country, and better understand why people chose to work illegally instead. Understanding the ramifications of this contract labor system and the immigration patterns it inspired, is important when examining the treatment of immigrants entering the United States today.

The exploitability of Bracero workers was perpetrated by purposeful methods of control. The entire program intended to incentivize an ultimate return to Mexico and operated by instilling fear and uncertainty amongst these people. Braceros were forced to endure atrocious living and working conditions with no ability to resolve their situation, for fear of deportability and the inability to create a better life.

The United States has historically established immigration policies that place greater emphasis on the economic needs of the country as opposed to the livelihood and well-being of migrants. The evident abuse and manipulation of migrant worker’s contractually employed under the Bracero Program, was purposefully not addressed and there was no accountability to ensure their human rights were being upheld.