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August 11, 2018


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Too timely for words, One of Woody's greatest songs. So many great versions, so many tears shed while listening.


Truman was a great enemy of immigrants. Despite efforts by "" to spin the facts in his favor, even those "fact checkers" concede:

"On July 13, 1951, ... [Truman stated[. "These people are coming to our country in phenomenal numbers – and at an increasing rate," Truman said. "Everyone suffers from the presence of these illegal immigrants in the community."

Note the "these people." Today, hysterics would be quick to accuse Truman of being a racist. Wait, no. Not really. Democrats all along have said this, but Democrats don't care when Democrats say it.

Factcheck continues: "It’s true that many were deported or induced to return "voluntarily" during the Truman years. We figure, based on the official historical tables, that more than 127,000 were formally deported and more than 3.2 million left voluntarily rather than face deportation — a total of nearly 3.4 million."

Hmmm, "self deportation"? Again, witness the opprobrium heaped on Romney when he suggested this. Truman: a Democrat HERO -- nary a word about his harsh stance that caused this.

Back to Factcheck, which relied on the Truman library for information: "Truman actually wanted to do more than he was able to stem illegal immigration. He said the bill he signed didn’t go far enough. He said he would ask Congress for stricter sanctions against employers who harbor illegal aliens, and would also seek clear authority for INS inspectors to raid workplaces without search warrants."

Oh, wow, Democrats.

Shed a tear indeed. And, when you do, remember how much you lionize Truman (and every Democratic president since), who took the same stances you now condemn as racist.


@anon. I didn't know we were talking about Truman.

Steve L.

Jeff: Truman vetoed the McCarran-Walter Act (named after its sponsors who were both Democrats), which was then passed over his veto. It established the national quota system, which effectively prevented immigration from Asia, South America, and most of Eastern Europe. It also provided for the deportation of subversives.

The Act did abolish the racial exclusions from citizenship and it extended citizenship to Puerto Ricans, but on the whole it severely limited immigration for decades and substituted de facto racial exclusions for de jure ones.

Truman had a mixed record on immigration, but his veto of McCarran-Walter, in defiance of his own party, was a high point.


Steve, you've cited an "alternative fact."

There were high points associated with Truman's immigration policies (in your view), as noted above. However, selecting "high points" doesn't in any way refute, dismiss or diminish the meaning or import of the statements and policies noted above, which are well-cited, and not subject to any factual dispute.

In any event, McCarran-Walter, as you say, was as much a Democratic party initiative as an initiative favored by both parties. Then, like now, the Democrats were obsessed with the then-current red scare: "The 1952 Act was a product of the Cold War, shaped by Washington's overriding obsession with containing Communism at home and in overseas sites like Asia. The legislation's co-sponsors—House Republican Francis Walter (R-PA) and Senate Democrat Pat McCarran (D-NV)—were well-known anti-Communists and restrictionists." Densho Encyclopedia, authored by Jane Hong, Harvard University.

Among other things, the Act was intended to "create[] a labor certification system, designed to prevent new immigrants from becoming unwanted competition for American laborers."

Jeff: on January 28, 1948, the date of the crash noted above, and the policies about which you weep, Truman was the president, and had been since 1945. His predecessor was Democrat FDR.


For anyone following this exchange please note that my original comment was non-partisan and simply referred to a tragic moment in American history. The "bracero" program of which the victims were a part began during the second world war and ended in the mid-60s spanning many years and many presidents. The braceros (Spanish for manual labor) were throughout the west (both North and South) following the crops etc. A very complex program with some positive and many negative aspects. Woody's poem and later the song describes the anonymity of those who died. The media did not even attempt to identify the dead, merely referring to them as 'deportees'. Eventually the names have been recovered and a gravestone with their names has been placed in Las Gatos Canyon. Without Woody Guthrie perhaps we would never know about this. I feel sadly for anyone who cannot see the basic humanity in this song. May I also add to this comment another Woody song, "1913 Massacre" in Calumet Michigan. Topical troubadours communicate important stories about folk.



Contrary to your personal attack, I for one feel very deeply for the folks exploited in the farm system, unlike most Democrats - of that era and this one.

You say you didn't intend any partisan meaning to your comment "Too timely for words," but I think your implication was clear.

The truth is that for far too long, most of us who do care have been aware of the "Harvest of Shame." A deep awareness of the exploitation of migrant farm workers reveals that Democrats are just as much to blame as every other party.

Want to speak about "timely"? The Democrats of this era say almost nothing about this exploitation, but rather, encourage more and more impoverished persons from Central America to come here to be exploited in these and other menial jobs -- gardeners, cooks, dishwashers, maids, nannies, etc. -- often for the direct personal benefit of elite Democrats who cynically encourage them to come (and, yes, vote for Democrats). (Please don't tell me about the "Fight for Fifteen" because, to do so would open up yet another example of the cynicism of the Democratic party of today.)

In Woody's song, he asked: "Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards? Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?"

It was the policies of the Democratic Party (remember, at the time of which Woody wrote, FDR has been the president for 16 years, and Truman for another three) at issue in Woody's song. No, not "timely" -- unless by that snide aside you meant to refer to the Democrats of today, who still encourage the impoverished from other countries to our south "to come working the fruit trees."

The policies that led to the "bracero" program and the Truman policies that led the deportations you decry were both policies the Democrats supported. No, sir, not "many presidents." The program began in 1942; "Truman's Commission on Migratory Labor in 1951 disclosed that the presence of Mexican workers depressed the income of American farmers, even as the U.S Department of State urged a new bracero program to counter the popularity of communism in Mexico." By 1954, "To address the overwhelming amount of undocumented migrants in the United States, the Immigration and Naturalization Service [began widespread} repatriate[ion] of illegal laborers back to Mexico."

Woody's song was about the situation in 1948, Jeff.

The policies of the Democratic party on immigration have been incoherent at least since FDR, and remain so, resulting in deep injustices.

So, let's not interject the "just like today" canard. The Truman administration deported, and encouraged the deportation of these exploited people. You should not accuse others of not caring about the tragedy of the exploitation of these workers because one dares to say it wasn't "just like today" and that it was the policies of the Democrats, too, at fault.

Instead of trying to avoid delivering cheap shots that inaccurately attempt to smear others, why don't you acknowledge and decry the incoherent exploitative policies of the Democratic party that led to the exploitation of which Woody wrote? At least, in those days, folks like Woody realized that just blaming one man, or one party, would be asinine and he didn't even try to do that.

You did.

Scott Pruitt Edndowed Chair in Environmental Justice

Thousands of AMERICAN businesses, including iconic muti-national corporations and holding companies benefitted from undocumented human, cheap labor. Many of these companies would not be profitable but for Mexican labor. We invited them here. All of a sudden, there is a cultural anxiety or angst and they are no longer welcome by 35% of the body politic. They are not throw away people, but human beings who deserve our thanks and gratitude. We need to pass DACA and TPS. Wherever you are from, I am happy to have you as my neighbor. You are welcome!


"All of a sudden, there is a cultural anxiety"


Thanks Jeff. Thanks Lubet. You are making these problems ever so much worse, by inspiring this sort of "understanding."

Listen to the d..n song you posted: ""Is this the best way WE can grow our big orchards? Is this the best way WE can grow our good fruit?"

Thanks to partisans who pose as intellectuals, there is no such thing as "WE" anymore. If these people were in 1968 as they are now, I suspect the Democratic Convention would have been a love fest for the party of LBJ.

James Grimmelmann

The best cover is Richard Shindell’s:

Scott Pruitt Edndowed Chair in Environmental Justice

The best roasted chicken I ever had was at a Super Mercado in Central Nebraska somewhere along Route 30 near the 100th Meridian. The store was owned by recent immigrants....they are revitalizing America. Welcome!

Steve L.

Thanks for the link, James. I thought the chord substitution -- B minor instead of the expected D major -- was a great touch at the end of the third line (after "Mexico border," and in every following stanza).

J. Bogart

Lucinda Williams has a version on Dark Side of Life and Los Super Seven (aka Los Lobos) has one on Los Super Seven (Joe Ely lead).

James Grimmelmann

Huh, neat. I had never noticed that.

Steve L.

James: I also think the guitar is in D tuning, which gives it the lower rumbling sound.

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