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JSPES, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Fall 2006 )
pp. 339 - 365

If Past is Prologue: Americans' Future "Guilt" About Today's Use of Low-Pay Immigrant Labor

Dwight D. Murphey

Wichita State University

One of the major arguments made by those who support today's massive immigration from Mexico and the Third World into the United States is that the immigrants, and especially those who come in illegally, are "doing work Americans won't do." What is not realized is that there is already an extensive literature, written mainly by activists for the immigrant ethnic groups themselves, that charges that the widespread use of low-pay labor from an impoverished immigrant underclass is "exploitation." The point of this article is that if precedents such as the widespread elevation of Cesar Chavez to hero status are any guide to the forces at work within the United States, the day will almost certainly come when mainstream American society will be caused by its opinion-makers in academia and the media to look back upon the current use of immigrant labor as reason for shame rather than self-congratulation, much as Americans have already been caused, through similar alienation, to reevaluate much of their country's history as carrying a heavy legacy of guilt.