Oregon’s Latino leaders are raising the bar in green building
By Stephen Aigiuer, Green Hammer
Stephen Aiguier is the founder of Green Hammer, an integrated design, build and energy firm based in Portland. You can reach him at Stephen@greenhammer.com or 503.804.1746.
Between 1850 and 1880, 60 percent of the miners and railway crews in the United States were Mexican. In 1918, during World War I, when the U.S. was sending 150,000 new troops per month to Europe, quotas on Mexican immigration were ignored as they became a powerful tool to drive the nation’s economic machine. Then, during the Great Depression, Mexicans were cited as a reason for the failed economy and suffered violent physical attacks, verbal abuse and were politically dehumanized. In the 1930s, roughly 300,000 Mexican workers and their families — many of them with children born in the United States who were therefore citizens — were deported back to Mexico.
Between World War II and the Cold War, more than 5 million Mexicans signed temporary work agreements that allowed them to cross the border legally and work with little to no U.S. employment protections. They ended up in work camps without proper plumbing, electricity and on wages dependent upon production — not a straight hourly wage. About 40 years ago, the Border Industrialization Program, was established to effectively allow U.S. companies to manufacture in Mexico without paying tariffs and pay the Mexican workers a fraction of the price of a U.S. worker. In 2012 the minimum wage requirements for these maquiladoras is just $4.60 per day.
In Oregon, as recently as 1977, the Immigration Naturalization Service was leading another reign of terror, hunting Latin American workers. For someone who moved to Oregon for its progressive values, it’s hard to stomach the modern civil rights realities in the state I now call home. In the late 1970s, while I was free-roaming the forests of Vermont, Oregon children in the Latino community were hiding in fear from the INS and the flyers placed on their doorsteps stating "Open Season on Wetbacks."
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