Governor John Tanner of Illinois offered whatever moral and material support may be necessary in this emergency to maintain the honor of the U.S. flag and prevent or punish any attempt at hostile invasion of our common country.14 Illinois became the first state in the Union to offer material support and troops for the coming war. In April of 1898, eight Illinois National Guard regiments, as part of U.S. forces, joined approximately 5,000 Cuban revolutionaries to free Cuba from Spanish rule.15
In the early part of the twentieth century the influx of Mexican and Latino migration to Illinois was driven by the demand for inexpensive, high-quality labor in the agricultural and railroad industries. By the early 1900s, employment opportunities emerged in other industrial sectors.16
Although many Latin Americans migrated to Illinois of free will, capitalists were luring them with the promise of better working conditions, better pay, and an abundance of employment opportunities. The most popular destination for persons of Mexican origin who were coming from the Southwest and Mexico was Chicago.18 In fact, the city outside of the Southwest with the most Latin Americans was Chicago.
Forced deportation of Mexicans, some of whom were U.S. citizens, and federal repatriation programs to Mexico began in the early 1920s and reached into the
1940s. Recruitment by capitalists for inexpensive labor and the social ills of the time placed Latinos, as a whole, in a tenuous situation. The capitalist need for labor, the Latinos’ need to earn a living, and the fear of being deported made for an atmosphere of fear and conflict.
On the one hand, Mexicans were viewed as cheap labor used to fill voids in the labor market; on the other, Mexicans and other Latinos became the scapegoats for social troubles. Aggravated by historical tension with countries where Spanish was the official language, the tone was set for discrimination and unspoken policies against Mexicans and other Latinos.19