In 1935 a federal court judge handed down a ruling that could have been disastrous for Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and all Latinos in the United States. However, in an unprecedented move, the
Roosevelt administration wielded the power of "administrative law" to neutralize the decision and thereby dealt a severe blow to the nativist movement. A Quiet Victory for Latino Rights
recounts this important but little-known story.
No one yet has provided this kind of insight on the process that occurred before Mexicans were finally considered white by every agency of the government.
—Ignacio M. García, author of White But Not Equal: Mexican Americans, Jury Discrimination, and the Supreme Court
Lukens has identified a topic that is extremely worthy of study. He has uncovered very interesting and previously unknown elements of this story [and] his account of the Andrade decision is engrossing.
—Cybelle Fox, University of California, Berkeley
To the dismay of some nativist groups, the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted annually, did
not apply to immigrants from Latin America. In response to nativist legal maneuverings, the 1935 decision said that the act could be applied to Mexican immigrants. That decision, which ruled that the
Mexican petitioners were not "free white person[s]," might have paved the road to segregation for all Latinos.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), founded in 1929, had
worked to sensitize the Roosevelt administration to the tenuous position of Latinos in the United States. Advised by LULAC, the Mexican government, and the US State Department, the administration used
its authority under administrative law to have all Mexican immigrants—and Mexican Americans—classified as "white." It implemented the policy when the federal judiciary "acquiesced" to the New
Deal, which in effect prevented further rulings.
In recounting this story, complete with colorful characters and unlikely bedfellows, Patrick Lukens adds a significant chapter to the racial
history of the United States.