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L.A. County officials apologize for Depression-era deportations

February 21, 2012 |  6:33 pm

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina during a meeting in 2011Some 80 years ago, tens of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans living in L.A. County were forced aboard trains and taken south of the border, supposedly to stop them from taking American jobs.

On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors formally apologized.

“L.A. was very much part of these official roundups,” said Supervisor Gloria Molina. “There’s a point in time where the only thing you can do is offer an apology.”

Those taken to Mexico from Los Angeles were only a portion of the more than 2 million people that officials estimate were deported or forced to leave during the Depression-era campaign.

Scholars estimate that more than 60% were U.S. citizens. Some also said the campaign in Southern California served as a model for the rest of the country.

In a motion to the county board, Molina said there were massive clandestine raids that often separated families.

“Families were forced to abandon, or were defrauded of, personal and real property, which often was sold by local authorities as ‘payment’ for the transportation expenses incurred in their removal,” according to the motion.

Politicians and legal advocates launched a campaign in 2003 to win a formal apology and reparations. And in 2005, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill apologizing to the estimated 400,000 U.S. citizens and legal residents who were illegally deported to Mexico between 1929 and 1944.

County officials said part of that legislation was used to secure funding for a commemorative monument in Los Angeles, and on Sunday public officials and representatives from the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund will unveil the memorial at La Plaza on Main Street.

There will also be a panel discussion about the issue, among other events, and officials encourage anyone who was affected by the repatriation campaign to come and record their stories.


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-- Ari Bloomekatz at the L.A. County Hall of Administration

Photo: Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina during a meeting in 2011. Credit: Irfan Kahn /  Los Angeles Times