Jerky

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The autumn moon was beginning to rise in the east. Hues of orange and purple dusted the Sierra mountains. Dusk was approaching. U.S. Route 395 resembled a dark snake running through Central California until it became sparsely lit by dull, yellowed headlight beams. Ron was heading north, no destination, just driving until he was over it. He was over many things. He was over getting laid off. He was over losing his girlfriend of four years. He was over his parents disowning him for the things he’d done in years past.

With the clutch depressed, he shifted into neutral, slowed to a stop, pulled the parking brake, and flashed on his emergencies. Gusts of wind pushed Ron to the roadside quicker than a jog for which he was thankful. He couldn’t get his zipper open fast enough. As he coated the shrub with what had been Dr. Pepper the last few hours, his eyes drifted upward toward the horizon. The field before him was populated by Joshua trees. A vague whisper of his childhood friend, Josh, floated into his mind. They had been best buds until his mother was convicted of multiple murders in their county. Murder, drugs, and he thought there were other grim details but his memory couldn’t muster them. He wondered whatever happened to Josh after he disappeared.

Back on the highway, Ron’s stomach began to flip and fold itself as if a snake was in his belly tossing about. Despite the Big Gulp of dark liquid sludge he sipped, he had forgotten to eat anything for even longer. His lower abdomen started dancing furiously as he started imagining a hot meal. That hot meal wouldn’t come to fruition as he didn’t have a lot of money and these were mountain towns—most restaurants close around sundown.

His headlights lit up a billboard long enough for him to see a beef jerky store was ahead. The letters were large and red, couldn’t miss it. He did miss his father, though. A brief flash of a memory, jerky tasting in the desert at some work trip on which his father brought him. Ron got to try all sorts of odd meat choices, alligator and rattlesnake came first to mind. He remembered his dad saying, “Tastes like chicken, Ronaldo. Go on, give it a go.” The rattlesnake really did taste like chicken, weird.

He entered the town limits of Olancha, California. Huh, not much of a place, he wondered. After a few minutes he spotted a bright, blue neon sign in the window of a white cinderblock building. It had an overhang as if it was previously a gas station. Ron downshifted and parked, but after it was too late, he realized he parked in an adjacent parking lot, not the correct one for the beef jerky store. Walking toward the store, he noticed the neon sign said: JERKY. He liked that odd detail. There must have been a customer inside because he walked past a begrimed Toyota Tercel. Or maybe it was the employee’s car working the current shift.

The doorway chimed as if he was entering a 7-11. The store was very cozy, probably 20×20 with little walking room due to the overzealous displays of jerky in the mini aisles. The inventory seemed low. The walls were sparingly lined with vacuum-sealed packages of labeled jerky. He saw beef, turkey, venison, cowboy, and others. With a smirk, he thought whether the cowboy jerky was made for cowboys or made of cowboys.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, sir!” a man exclaimed after coming from a back door. Ron was visibly startled and thought this place looked too small to have a back-office area. The man’s breathing was labored and he looked a bit frantic. What was he doing back there? I hope he wasn’t—Ron stopped himself from picturing some grotesqueries. The man squeezed out some Purell onto his hands.

“Have you been here before? Would you like to try some samples?” The man picked up a small, orange tray from beneath the counter. An assortment of jerky-filled paper souffle cups laid before Ron’s eyes, the kind he squirted ketchup into at McDonald’s. He picked one that looked well-seasoned.

“Hot damn. That is beyond delicious,” Ron said after a brief, savory bite and chew. “Which jerky was that?”

“Why thank you, sir. Mighty kind. That was the original. Been at this line of work for generations.” The man gestured toward a line of portraits behind the register. Four generations of beef jerky masters. “I am the fourth Gus to run this here jerky store. When my great-great grandfather didn’t make it in the movie business he fell back on his second love, jerky. It used to be a rinky-dink stand in the middle of this Californian desert, but look at it now. We even have a website, online ordering, and have been visited by many Hollywood celebrities.” Gus handed Ron a small photo album and he began to thumb through it. The Polaroids included Quentin Tarantino, Colin Farrell, Bill Gates, and others.

“That’s pretty sick. I’m a big Pulp Fiction fan,” Ron shared as he passed back the album. As Gus extended his arm to take it back, Ron noticed a small spritz of what looked like blood on his sleeve. With a strained smile, Ron asked, “Is that your Tercel out front?”

After a silence approaching an awkward length, Gus replied, “Yeah, yes. That’s mine. You’d think I’d drive a much nicer car with the loads of money I make from selling this here jerky!” His eyes never blinked while he straightened his collar for maybe the eighth time that night.

“How exactly does it work? Do you have a workshop somewhere that processes all the jerky and you ship it here?” Ron asked, his gaze at Gus focused and severe. Gus’s pocket beeped, flip phone notification. He looked out of the window to the south, then north; yanked down the stainless-steel pull chain to turn off the JERKY neon sign.

“You seem like a nice guy. I normally don’t get customers once the stars first show. Want to see how we process all the jerky beneath us?”

Beneath us? There’s a basement?”

Gus directed Ron’s attention toward the door he sprung out of about five minutes prior. Gus walked past Ron leading the way. He flicked on the light switch and opened the door which revealed a small stairway. Chewing the inside of his cheek, Ron checked his wristwatch. Well, I’ve got nowhere to be right now. To hell with it. With shoulders lowered and loose, Ron followed Gus down into the basement.

It wasn’t exactly a well-lit, clean workstation. Right away, Ron questioned the cleanliness of Gus’s operation. There was a line of ruby-red liquid coating the floor near what appeared to be a large freezer. There was a workbench with labeled, opaque plastic tubs and a conventional oven to his right. To his left, a rack of spices and herbs. The entire basement was lit by a measly lamp overhead in the center. Ron looked closer at the rack of small, bottled spices and noticed they were labeled: beef, chicken, turkey, etc.

As Ron observed the room, Gus decided to explain his process of making jerky. The source meat comes to him, he first flash freezes it and then slices it with the sharpest knives he owns. After that, he marinates the meat using his proprietary spices and stock before baking it on low heat for three to four hours. Gus’s cell phone audibly notified him once more.

Thud. It was a low, muffled noise from within the freezer. It sounded like a bag of flour dropped. Ron looked toward the freezer with increasingly furrowed brows. There was another sound, something resembling the scuffle of feet. Gus attempted to divert his attention by saying they should go back upstairs. It was too late. Ron’s hand was already on the freezer’s door latch, pulling it to release the air-tight lock when it slammed open and hit him.

A young man, roughly 16, stammered out of the walk-in freezer. He was breathing heavily, drooling, and struggling to stay upright. Both of his hands were cut off and dripping. The only sounds emanating from his throat were groans. His tongue was missing. The teen fell over and began to army crawl toward Ron and reached out. Ron stumbled backward, his back against the oven as his legs went stiff. His eyes white saucers.

Ron turned toward Gus who was blocking the stairway and intently watching them both. He saw a dirty, wet rag in one of Gus’s hands, a crazy look in his eyes. Gus easily had 50 pounds on Ron, and he charged him. Ron ducked down and over, sidestepping Gus. The teen’s wrist bones crunched under Ron’s boot, blood and pus shot out where his hand had been—he croaked in agony. Ron’s eyebrows reached the ceiling, his mouth agape. He crashed down and rolled over the handless teen.

Gus caught himself before crashing into the far wall and ran back toward Ron as he approached the stairs. Ron’s foot was yanked back, his chin met the bottom step. Blood spurted out of his mouth as two of his teeth cracked and left their place. Ron felt as if his heart was going to burst out of his chest, his pulse raced. Gus flipped Ron onto his back and tried with all his might to smother the rag in Ron’s face. The vein in Gus’s forehead was bulging, his nostrils flared. Inch by inch, Gus was gaining on Ron with the rag. Ron could smell the sweet chemical with which the rag was soaked.

Thwack. The teen kicked Gus’s feet out from under him causing his aging spine and skull to collide with the dusty, concrete floor. Ron’s eyes darted at the teen, meeting the teen’s yellowed and bloodshot eyes with his. The teen motioned his head toward Gus with mumbled instruction.

Ron grabbed the rag which he assumed was soaked in chloroform and held it against Gus’s yawn-wide mouth long enough for Gus’s phone to chime again. After making sure he was knocked out stiff, Ron reached into Gus’s pocket for the phone. The notification was a new text message from “JD.”

JD: R u rdy or not?? Bttr have the adren. Be there in 2.

“Adren? What the hell is adren?” Ron whisper-shouted. He helped the teen up and onto the workbench’s stool, then reached for his own phone. It was missing from his jean pocket. Confused, he dialed 911 with Gus’s flip phone and put it on speakerphone. Hoping to reach an operator, Ron began to hyperventilate and blurt out everything he just experienced once he heard the line connect. After his last exasperated breath, the 911 operator replied, “Where are you?”

“We are in Olancha! At this beef jerky stand run by a guy named Gus.”

“Oh,” the operator said. “We don’t go there.” Click.

“Don’t…go there?” Ron repeated slowly to the just-as-confused teen. His mouth experienced a dull, vibrating pain from his missing teeth. “I’m going to get you out of here. We gotta get upstairs and to my car before this ‘JD’ person arrives.”

A car door slams. Footsteps approach the jerky store and the two in the basement panic as there is nowhere to hide in the store above. They hide beneath the stairwell as the basement door creaks open. “G? G4? You down there, buddy?” The familiar footsteps continue down the stairs, but stop abruptly as a gasp is released from JD’s mouth. He sees Gus unconscious on the floor and the walk-in freezer door wide open with cold air billowing out.

JD is wearing an all-white suit with gold trim and a flat-brimmed hat. Ron and the teen can only see him from the backside. JD kneels down and lightly slaps Gus as he repeats his name, trying to wake him up. He tries a harsh slap followed by a punch to his lower abdomen. Nothing. JD notices the rag on the floor, sniffs it quickly and tosses it just as fast. His head swivels about the room and lands on the freezer door. He creeps toward the door; afraid someone will pop out. Nothing. As he looked back in Gus’s direction his face was revealed by the faint, dust-filled light beam of the overhead lamp.

Ron and the teen shared an unnerved look. Without a word, they both thought JD somewhat resembled Johnny Depp. Ron nudged the teen and gave him the stay silent gesture with his forefinger to his closed lips. Out of desperation and afraid he possibly had a concealed weapon, Ron decided to take down JD, with a tackle. They crashed into the freezer door. JD’s back suffered a serious blow and the wind got knocked out of him, he gasped for air.

“Why are you here?! What is this jerky place? How do you know Gus and what the hell is ‘adren?’” JD struggled to get out from under the strong grip of Ron’s hands on his shoulders but remained pinned. His back hurt far too much to try again. He could be out for months with this injury. “Talk!” shouted Ron, saliva spurting out of his mouth. He smacked JD in the temple with the back of his fist. JD winced, no one touches his temples.

“Alright, alright. I’m here for blood. Usually a young person’s blood, male or female, doesn’t matter. I need it to look good in the spotlight. It gives me vigor, youth. ‘Adren’ is short for adrenochrome. It’s a chemical produced from adrenaline in the blood. Have you seen the film, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?”

“Nope, never.”

Peeved, he continued: “Well, in that movie a character takes adrenochrome to trip balls. He had a liquid dropper and put it on his tongue. In real life, I get it injected into my bloodstream. But to really get a good batch of it, you have to cause a lot of excitement and stress to the person you take the blood from to get their adrenaline pumping. Now, I’ve never questioned Gus’s methods, I just know his stuff works. My current acting role is very taxing. Should be done filming soon.”

Wait, was this actually Johnny Depp?

The young teen ran from beneath the stairwell yelling incoherently at JD and attempted to choke him before remembering he had no hands. After the realization, he proceeded to beat JD with his bloody stumps in a blind rage. You could almost hear him screaming, “NOT MY BLOOD!” but it was garbled by spit and his lack of tongue. JD covered his face and let out a primal scream, one that was sure to reverberate through the car windows of passersby on Route 395.

Ron’s grip on JD loosened during the lashing which allowed him enough room to kick the teen in the chest. He tumbled to the floor near Gus.

“What in the hell does any of that adrenochrome blood stuff have to do with beef jerky? This makes no sense.”

Ron stood up, gestured to the teen that he was taking care of everything, and walked over to the labeled tubs. Each had a sticker with a date and two-lettered initials on them. He opened one with a label dated from two weeks ago alongside the initials SB. He saw an eyeball, bicep, and foot. Horrified, Ron pushed the tub as far away from him as possible. It clashed against the wall adjacent to the workbench. The content of the tub spilled out onto the floor and the metallic odor filled the room. The eyeball rolled to JD’s foot. He screamed. “What the fuc—!” Startled, he got up and looked at Gus, still unconscious on the floor. Ron opened the other four tubs on the workbench revealing a similar combo of hacked up body parts. All three men shielded their nose and squinted their eyes in disgust.

“This is way too much for me. I thought I was just getting donated blood by volunteers who liked getting a little scared. Gus is actually murdering people?!” JD stepped over to Gus’s body and gave him a sharp kick to the ribs. This woke him up from the chloroform nap.

“Explain these tubs! I’m about to leave and tell the authorities about you and this place. They’ll never believe a murdering sonuvabitch about the adrenochrome thing. What the hell are these body parts, G4! Was your father, G3, doing this stuff too?!”

Slightly dazed and confused, Gus replied with a mawkish smile, “What do you think my really good fresh jerky is made from?”


This just in, an anonymous report came into our newsroom late last night concerning Gus’s Really Good Fresh Jerky out in Olancha, California. If you have small children watching in your room, please allow them to leave now. It is a grotesque crime scene and a story filled with murder. Apparently, for generations, this little jerky stand has been abducting visitors at random, killing them in the basement, and using their human flesh as their jerky. Gus, the owner, would season the jerkies differently and label them as different meats, but they were all human meat. The local forensics team has confiscated all of the jerky and tested it in their laboratory. DNA from 19 unique individuals has been found in packages labeled as beef, turkey, venison, and chicken. Ironically, the packages labeled Cowboy Jerky are genuine beef jerky with black pepper, sea salt, and brown sugar. Gus is now in federal custody as the investigation continues. Too soon to definitively say, but there is already enough tangible evidence to lock him up for life in prison. Police said there was a 1993 Toyota Tercel parked outside of the jerky stand but it lacked plates and wasn’t equipped with LoJack. The owner of the car is not known. We will bring you updates as they come in from authorities. Thank you for watching. This report was sponsored by Walt Disney Pictures. Be sure to catch their upcoming maritime swashbuckler movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl starring Johnny Depp. It’ll be in theaters this coming July. Goodnight!


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Kindred Clinic

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Here at Kindred Clinic, we want you to feel safe and welcome while we provide the very best healthcare services possible. From our fully automated staff to our zen lobby, we do everything we can for you, our cherished client, to be satisfied. Waiting rooms are an anachronism. We pride ourselves on not having any. Reserve your operation from our company app and when you arrive your appointment will begin immediately. Simple, efficient, and clean. Rated #1 by our clientele and verified by third-party. Official GovCare partner. “Don’t be timid. Reserve a visit at Kindred Clinic within a minute!”

Beethoven’s Für Elise echoes throughout the dim hallway, playing at a lethargic, waning tempo. A mouse scuttles across the linoleum floor. In a corner of the room, it gnaws on a white cable protruding from the main cabinet. A nearby machine whirs and clicks. A muffled beep soars through the room and trails off as if dying a slow, painful death. The piano stops. Without delay, a noiseless tracer laser obliterates the rodent before its fifth bite. No sign of it is left. The song continues. In the adjacent room, a multi-faceted surgical machine cleans its station. It removes all stainless-steel tools from its trays and places them in the deodorizing Sans unit, eleven in total. Its patient lies on the operating table; chest slowly rising and falling, peaceful. A few specks of blood lay on the floor. A cylindrical DeckBot trundles toward the nonessential matter, sprays a solution, and its underlying bristles remove the impurity as it jerks back and forth over the area. The bot then retreats to its charging bay. The surgical machine’s post-op cleanup is now complete. It releases Wake™ particles into the patient’s respiratory cannula. The patient’s eyes begin to roll around and flutter. He quickly attempts to shake away the perilous dream he was having. The conceptual images in his mind fade away as if they had never existed; out of reach. For a brief moment, he forgets where he is. After his prefrontal cortex returns to full capacity, he realizes he’s done with his auto-surge. He scans the blindingly white operation room, pristine. His jaw is numb and his abdomen is sore. He notices drool crawling toward his ears and away from his lips. A screen jolts out from what could be the head of the surgical robot and hovers over his face. It’s suspended horizontally as is he. A paragraph of text appears.

Patient 033Post-Op Diagnostics

Four Root Canals: Completed

Two Wisdom Teeth Removal: Completed

Sleep™ & Wake™ Products: Free of Charge

Error Processing Payment…

Patient 033 squints in confusion at the last line of text. They had my Finanstrip account linked and I made sure I had enough to cover this, he thinks to himself. The text fades and a new, longer paragraph appears.

Cred Account: 0

GovCrypto: 0

All linked accounts have a remaining balance of zero.

Immediate non-payment by patient results in initializing Code 212A.

212A states that in the unlikely event of non-payment a procedure will take place wherein an organ is surgically extracted. The organ chosen is based on pending operational costs. These costs are covered via market rate analysis of organ donor demands.

Patient 033 jerks upward but notices his biceps and ankles are securely fastened with black nylon restraints. Shaking, he shouts expletives and his stringy saliva splatters the screen. His frantic gyrations make his abdomen ache even more. His yellowish eyes shoot southward and widen like two polished amber stones. He spots a line of clear stitching near his right oblique, thirteen stitches. “Did you,” the man sputters through his teeth, “take one of my kidneys?! I’ll sue your whole company! Manager, manager, I want to speak to the human who runs this place!” The man is beet red and uses all of his strength to loosen the restraints. No luck. A new message appears on the hovering screen.

Consent required for non-disclosure agreement. This NDA ensures that both parties remain silent concerning any extraneous operations hitherto not agreed upon. Your electronic signature will be verified via thumbprint analysis and logging provided courteously by CarbonCop™, the National Police Force’s print database. You will be visibly and audibly monitored for one decade. If this NDA is violated, the offending party will be executed. No questions asked. Thank you.

An arm detaches from the surgical machine with a dermal reader and forces itself against Patient 033’s hand. Fingerprints taken. The arm zips back into the machine and uploads. “Thank you for my consent? I didn’t consent to nothin’! You can’t do this to people. This is wrong!” says the patient. “Oh, look. Another god**mn new message.” The patient scoffs before beginning a labored, maniacal laugh.

Sir, your blood pressure is highly elevated.

My personality scan also reveals that you are experiencing negative emotions with a high possibility of violent behavior. We here at Kindred Clinic pride ourselves on customer satisfaction and a tranquil operating environment. Please, hold still.

Before the patient can yelp, an application dart shoots from the surgical machine into his knee with a stainless-steel cable attached. It’s a fast-acting cocktail of new anxiolytic drugs. It rapidly retracts into the machine. The operating table tilts forward and the restraints gradually withdraw.

We here at Kindred Clinic pride ourselves on being #1 with customer satisfaction. Please nod to confirm your 5-star rating.

And thank you for choosing Kindred. Don’t be timid!

Patient 033 smiles and nods ambiguously. He dreamily saunters through the clinic and toward the zen lobby. At the front counter rests a green bottle of Xylobin-Q. Quantity: 300. The patient stuffs the pharmaceuticals into his duster pocket and exits the building. He takes the nearby stairs to access the Holorail. After finding a seat, he plops down in exhaustion. His eyes are watery and a smile is carved into his jagged face. He thinks to himself, Gosh, they take such good care of us all.


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Tinkering, Tinkering

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“Alright, how much’ll that be?”

The clerk at Spray and Pray, a local gun shop, replied, “Lemme see. Six hundred for the Glock 19, twenty for the grip extension, and three hundred for the thousand-round box. You said this was a birthday present? Eh, gimme nine-hundred flat. Throw ya the grip for free, no tax.”

“D**n, man. That’s real generous. Yeah, this’ll be a gift for me: my first gun.”

“First, huh? You look real young, makes sense. What’s your main aim?”

“Self defense,” spit out Crawford before the clerk could finish his question.

“Mmm, why not go for a boomstick? I cut the stock off this here Mossberg just yesterday. Son, you could hit a squirrel nibblin’ on a nut a hunnerd feet away, blindfolded. Plus, them shells are cheaper. Just sayin’ is all.”

“‘Preciate it, but I’ve been wanting a handgun for some time. ‘Sides, really can’t believe Sacramento legalized sawed-offs.”

“True,” concluded the clerk, “real head-scratcher, but…been good for business.”

That night, Crawford examined the handgun carefully and studied its every detail. No Country For Old Men played in the background for what had been the seventeenth time. Crawford loved that movie.

A fist rapped at the door. Crawford was startled as it was late. He rarely expected guests at this hour. The knock had a distinct pattern and after a few seconds, he recognized it as that of his grandmother.

“Yeah? Who’zit?” His grandmother replied, “It’s me, dear. I’m cold out here, can ya open up, please?” What’s she doin’ here so late? he thought. As he opened the door, she smiled and politely walked into the living room. She was wearing her new favorite sweater from JCPenney, a champagne-pink top that faded to white near the bottom with large hazel buttons on one side. Crawford gestured her to sit on the couch after quickly dusting some Cheez-It crumbs off of the cushions.

“What’s goin’ on? You ne’er come over this late.”

“Well, ya know me, was watching my show on Netflix but it got boring. I haven’t seen you in a while and I know you stay up late, so I figured ya wouldn’t mind,” his grandmother said with increasingly furrowed brows.

“Is somethin’ wrong, grandma? You seem…different.” Crawford cracked his fingers and studied her eyes.

“Oh, child. Always worrying about me! Actually, would you mind making me some tea? A hot cup sounds quite nice right now,” she said as she relaxed further into the couch.

“Oh, yeah yeah, sure. Sorry I didn’t offer anything when ya came in. What kind would ya like? Right now, I think I got green, raspberry, English Breakfast, and chamomile,” Crawford offered as he stood and began walking toward the kitchen.

“English Breakfast!” Her voice echoed off of the kitchen walls as Crawford approached the electric kettle. She never drinks English Breakfast, he noted while ripping the tea package open. His kettle could produce near-instant hot water and he was already beginning to steep it a moment later. Crawford handed her the cup before slumping onto the couch. His calves were sore, leg day.

“What time’zit, anyway? My phone’s in the other room,” he said. His grandmother responded, “Well, my phone’s in my car. No idea!”

“What do ya mean? Where’s yer watch? It hasn’t left yer wrist since grandpa’d gone to heaven.”

“Uh…that’s right. I took it to the shop to get it a new battery,” she blurted.

“Grandpa’s Invicta is automatic. It don’t got a battery.” Crawford’s face twisted in skepticism and confusion.

“I mean—I meant the crown broke and I took it in for repair,” his grandmother explained, visibly flustered.

“Okay… Which shop? Grandpa only trusted one man wit’ that watch, ya know that.” Crawford’s tone became interrogative.

She looked down for a moment, somberly, before craning her neck upward to reveal an awkward, tight-lipped smile. A sudden chill creeped out from the base of his neck and settled into his shoulders.

“I am not your grandmother,” she whispered. Crawford narrowed his eyes and tightened his lower lip. Her eyes bulged. Her body began to mechanically spasm. Her breathing switched to terrific grunts. The bags under her eyes started to sag deeper. Her face melted like a tallow candle before him.

“Holy crap!” Crawford yelled as he instinctively leaped from the couch and tripped over his coffee table. From the ground, he stared back and began gagging. All of her skin and muscle tissue was piling up on the carpet. The steaming mound of flesh was crackling and popping. A bare skeleton was now sitting before him and within its eye sockets shined bright red crystals. Crawford was scared stiff. This felt like one of those 80s movies he enjoyed so much with practical effects. In an instant, the skeleton cracked its jaw open and emitted an ear-piercing scream with enough decibels to make Crawford’s intestines vibrate. After an abrupt cessation, the skeleton put its arms up and leaped toward the ceiling. It disappeared like a flash. The sizzling accumulation of what was once possibly his grandmother did too. Crawford questioned whether he was awake and experiencing reality or stuck in one of his lucid dreams. Overcome with fright, he began sobbing into the carpet. His head was pounding, his stomach was turning, and his legs were aching.

“Was that too much?” a voice echoed throughout his living room. Crawford rolled over and stood up to grab his new pistol. He forgot his large box of ammunition was across the room. He hadn’t wanted to load it just yet, so he separated himself from it. He shoved the Glock into his jeans pocket.

“What in Sam Hill is happenin’? Who or wha’n’a’hell’s in my house?!” Crawford managed to blurt out in the dark. He heard a shuffling in the family room and the French doors creaked. Show yerself, you god**mn coward. He turned on the living room’s lights. The room was just as messy as before she came in. It was as if that thing was never there.

Crawford gritted his teeth and ran across into the family room. No sign of life. He removed his Glock from his pocket and scratched his forehead with the barrel. Finally, he removed the magazine, tore open his ammo box, and began loading. He was overwrought and felt the pit in his stomach get another ten feet deeper. He continuously checked over his shoulder after each cartridge entered the mag. Upon looking back a fourth time, he saw a man sitting on his couch out of the corner of his eye.

“Jesus!” Crawford yelped. The man chuckled.

“No, not quite,” he said while he dusted his lapel. The man was maybe mid-forties, clean-shaven, with eyes tucked behind horn-rimmed glasses. He was wearing a black three-piece suit complemented by double monk-strap shoes. Just as Crawford was about to open his mouth to catechize him, the suited man interrupted. “I guess I overdid it a bit. See, when I visit my subjects I like to put on a little show. It’s the only fun I really have these days. Paperwork for these cases is so tedious.” The suited man reached into his jacket’s inner pocket and brought out a lens cloth with which he began cleaning his glasses.

“Subjects? Fun? Cases? What’re you goin’ on about? Are you with that thing that was just inside my house? It leaped through the ceiling! Half o’ it melted onto my dang floor but it all disappeared. You better start talkin’ and explain just what the hell is goin’ on tonight.” Crawford slowly sat onto the loveseat perpendicular to his couch where the suited man was seated, gun still in hand. He was exhausted from what he had just experienced and had little patience left.

“I’m not even supposed to be here,” the suited man sighed while pinching his dorsal bridge. “You are not supposed to know I exist. I am violating codes here. I could get reprimanded or even worse, defibbed.”

“De-fibbed?” asked Crawford, puzzled. “Who are you?” he added.

“Defibbed is another way of saying executed. Typically, they hook up decommissioned agents to a tampered defibrillator and shock us with about 400 Joules. I run the risk of getting that treatment because as an interlockuter agent I am not supposed to interfere this much with your path,” the suited man replied.

“Cripes. My path? Are you some kinda secretive agent sent here to kill me?” Crawford gulped. “I haven’t done nothin’, honest.” Crawford’s eyes narrowed trying to read the suited man’s body language. He remained statuesque, but worry filled his eyes.

“I guess you can call it that. Secret agent…” The suited man scoffed a little too loudly. “I oversee sector 143A to 179G. It is my job to prevent idiots from being idiots.” “You,” the suited man violently pointed his middle finger at Crawford’s face, “are an idiot. In fact, I’ve never had such an inconvenient subject in my entire career. Your file has terabytes of data. So much effort put into you, I don’t quite get it. Hy-drones, spybirds, keyloggers, rig-swypers, you name it!” The suited man wiped his nose dismissively. “You can call me Ryker for now.”

“Ryker, okay, there we go,” said Crawford. He adjusted in the loveseat to sit more forward, closer to Ryker. Crawford unindexed his finger onto the trigger. “I think you’re f**kin’ with me, see. I think yer some kind of elaborate burglar. Ya come in here with a replicator collar disguised as my grandma. Made some big mistakes with yer replication of her, no watch? Ya put on some holographic s**tshow with your stupid suitcase-grafter—yes, I saw it—to scare me outta my wits while you rob my house.” Crawford’s blood pressure was high now. The vein in his forehead was beginning to bulge. With breakneck speed, Crawford swung up his Glock 19 and unloaded his half-filled magazine into Ryker, squeezing the trigger well after he was out of ammo. Ryker’s body reacted to each round and fell into the couch. Crawford’s chest was rising and falling intensely as he could barely control his breath. He squinted his eyes before widening them, mouth gaping. Ryker slid back up to where he was sitting. No bullet holes. Ryker stared into Crawford’s eyes and slightly smiled while dusting off his trousers in a ridiculing fashion.

“Do you still think we are sitting in your living room?” Ryker’s smile grew wider. Crawford’s mouth was still agape and began looking around the room. He looked at items on his coffee table and squinted. He picked up his TV remote. The buttons were all there but there were no labels. He threw it down. He picked up his copy of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik and flipped through the pages, everything blank. Crawford stood up and looked around the room. It looked like his living room but every item he chose to focus on became nondescript, blurred. A second later, he witnessed the room before his eyes begin to flicker away revealing millisecond shots of a sterile, white-walled room filled with blue-hued light. Ryker ripped the cryoplug from the back of Crawford’s skull and threw it to the ground. The insertion tip bloodied. His living room disappeared in a flash and the blue light was blinding to his weak eyes. He studied his surroundings as best he could despite his head pounding like a drum. Ryker was in what looked like a baby-blue medical smock. Beside him was a tray of metallic instruments on a rubberized mat.

“Wh—,” Crawford began speaking but his throat was incredibly dry. He tried swallowing to move some saliva around. Still struggling, he managed to ask, “Where am I?” Ryker slowly took off black latex gloves and deposited them into a bin. Ryker sighed.

“You’re in my world now,” Ryker calmly said. He scratched the back of his head then grabbed Crawford’s left shoulder. “I’ve really had enough of you,” he said. Crawford, with his mouth closed, moved his tongue back and forth across the roof of his mouth to generate some wetness. He began to lick his lips.

“Explain…please,” Crawford croaked out.

“How many times do I have to do this?” Ryker asked toward the ceiling as if speaking directly to God. “Okay,” he said after a brief sigh. “Your cheese crackers were laced with Product LIMBR. You hallucinated that entire episode with what appeared to be your grandmother. Not my doing, but yours. From there, you passed out after experiencing such a horrendous vision. Really, man, your imagination is scary wild. Anyway, I slipped into your residence, administered another drug to stabilize you and keep you in slumber during transportation to this facility. I strapped you down and plugged you in,” Ryker said proudly. Crawford interrupted.

“Plug…plugged me into what?” His face was twisted. Ryker pointed at a machine mounted on the wall complete with a thirty-inch monitor and pulsating lights.

“It’s called The InterFace. It copies, stores, and analyzes all available neural data from your brain stem. Its algorithms detect dissident thought processes and red flags them for us. Once enough of these little flags accumulate past a certain point we have to take action. By now, you know what I mean by ‘take action.’ I track, interfere, extract, etcetera,” Ryker said straightforwardly.

“Dissident? How’d this thing flag me if I’ve never been here before?” Crawford asked. He tried adjusting in the medical bed but the straps were too tight.

“We have a big file on you. Facial-recognition recordings, audio, intra-spatial scans, heat mappers, REM trackers, and other things have been compiled and manually reviewed. You were tagged as a level-one threat by human touch. Impressive, really. In addition, we have…pre-ception abilities.” Ryker was visibly giddy.

“Pre-ception?” asked Crawford. “Wha’n’da’hell’s that mean?” His face twisted even further.

“Well, it’s really in beta. But we have sort of figured out that with data compilation, neural-network analysis, and surveillance tech we can almost predict the future. Almost to a T. We enter a query into our supercomputer and it plays through hundreds of billions of possibilities and narrows it down to four distinct potentials. We then go off instinct and try our best to nail the right one down. It’s really difficult. Had to make some tough calls and some ended…badly,” explained Ryker. Crawford examined his hands. Ryker rubbed his ring finger nervously. Crawford then began to zone out as if concentrating on something across the room before realizing what he was doing and stopped. He recomposed himself.

“Tell me. Why’m I here? What’d’ya want from me?” Crawford was bone-tired. He wanted to leave.

“My job is to prevent you from buying that gun, that Glock 19. The supercomputer indicates that in the Final Four scenarios you do something terrible with it that then triggers catastrophic chaos. I am here to preserve order. I am the yin to your yang,” Ryker replied.

“What do I do wit’ it? Do I shoot someone important?” asked Crawford. “Do you and yer superiors think you can just watch all o’ us through yer fancy cameras, microphones, and screens and play God with us? Do you just sit there in yer ivory tower tinkering, tinkering away with our lives?” He was becoming restless. Ryker’s tight, pursed lips developed into a toying smile.

“Well, yes. That’s exactly what we do. I love my job! As for shooting someone important? That’s for me to know, son. In case the memwype doesn’t take, I don’t want to screw with the future possibilities. I can’t and I won’t tell you,” said Ryker firmly. He walked behind Crawford and pushed a button on a device attached to an arm. It had a square, translucent screen. Ryker swung it toward Crawford and it hung above his face. He felt like he was at the dentist. He hated the dentist.

“Whoa, whoa, wha’? Does ‘memwype’ mean a memory wipe? Don’t turn me in’o’a vegetable! I jus’ wanna go home!” cried Crawford. Tears were streaming down his temples and all of his muscles were tense. The straps were not budging.

“Suit yourself,” Ryker replied. He flipped a switch and depressed the ignition trigger.

That night, Crawford examined the handgun carefully and studied its every detail. No Country For Old Men played in the background for what had been the eighteenth time. Crawford loved that movie.


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Chávez and the Immigration Question

This is a paper I wrote in late 2018. It is the result of two months of research and drafting.


Within the last decade, the early ambitions of César Chávez and his United Farm Workers labor union have been called into question by people across the political spectrum. Chávez has achieved the status of a demigod for his utilization of strikes and boycotts within the labor movement to advance the conditions of farm workers throughout the southwestern United States since the early 1960s. However, there have been newfound concerns raised about his attitude and policies regarding undocumented laborers who did not belong to any unions. Those adhering to the conservative brand of politics commonly purport that Chávez “hated illegals” and worked against them in order to keep unionized Mexican-American laborers from working and having higher wages. Those with more liberal politics defend Chávez’s civil rights legacy by claiming the conservative position is false and that he only supported blocking undocumented immigrants when they entered the American labor market as strikebreakers, or “scabs.” This dichotomy of opinion intrigued me for years as I currently attend a college campus with a bronze statue of Chávez at its center. My research seeks to find a balance between these two opposing viewpoints.

Earlier this year, Ana Raquel Minian, Assistant Professor of History at Stanford, published Undocumented Lives.[1] This monograph shows how Mexican workers in the 1970s were allowed to temporarily move north into the United States to work fields and send money home, but by the mid-1980s the United States began to embrace anti-immigration policies and this forced many undocumented workers to stay north of the border. They feared leaving the US because it was more than likely they would be unable to return. The prevailing sentiment of Mexican migrant workers toward the United States was that it was a “juala de oro,” or a cage of gold. Undocumented Lives approaches this issue by analyzing both the economic and political policies of Mexico and the United States. This book contributes to my research paper because it provides context for Mexican migrant workers who entered the American job market without union affiliation. Minian details how unionized workers and other similar organizations feared that migrant workers threatened the job security of American citizens. These fearful and ambivalent groups included César Chávez’s United Farm Workers and the NAACP. Further, I will use this book to show how unions and the US government treated Mexican migrant workers. My research paper will differ from Minian’s work because she does not focus on Chávez and the UFW’s policies toward immigration.

Matt Garcia, the Director of the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University, published his monograph The Jaws of Victory in 2012.[2]  In this book, Garcia presents the reader with both the rise and fall of the United Farm Workers Union led by César Chávez. Garcia documents the worker movement using social history and concentrates mostly on the union’s goals and tactics, Chávez’s character development, and studies of other key figures within the movement. The book includes an analysis of the progress concerning labor contracts sought by Chávez and his union. This book differs from my first secondary source because its focus is solely on the UFW while keeping all else, such as the guest workers from Mexico, in the background. Garcia’s research will help my research paper in that he shows the internal politics of the union and its leaders, specifically César Chávez, Gilbert Padilla, Dolores Huerta, and even one of the main boycott coordinators Jerry Brown. I will use the information provided by him through original research of primary sources to argue for or against certain opinions I bring up in my paper—whether they are liberal or conservative talking points. Garcia provides some eye-opening accounts of Chávez that will be sure to provoke the readers of my final work.

In 2013, Frank Bardacke wrote a scholarly article titled The UFW and the Undocumented and it was published in the International Labor and Working Class History journal.[3] The main point of Bardacke’s journal article is to show that the UFW’s policy toward out-of-status immigrants had been mostly negative until the death of César Chávez. It is worth mentioning that Bardacke is a former member of Chávez’s union enabling him to offer illuminating insight to their operations. The UFW had a stricter anti-immigrant policy from its inception until 1975, culminating in the infamous “Campaign Against Illegals.” After this campaign, the UFW somewhat softened its stance against all undocumented workers in that it continued allying with the INS to take strikebreaking workers out of the fields, but caring less about undocumented workers already within the United States.

Bardacke’s journal article uses direct quotes from Chávez and the printed word from the organization’s many leaflets. Bardacke provides historical context to better argue for or against conservative or liberal talking points he mentions in the introductory paragraph. He states that the conservative position is that the UFW was wholly anti-immigrant and set up its own de facto border patrol in Arizona to block immigrants from Mexico. The liberal position is that the UFW only opposed undocumented workers when they broke strikes and that this policy was of yesteryear, therefore not relevant to their current active status as a defender of immigrant workers’ rights. This journal article will help my paper because it adds more nuance to the overall dispute between liberals and conservatives. Additionally, I found it interesting that Bardacke is an avowed leftist yet at times sides with the general conservative claims against Chávez and the UFW. This fact intrigued me, and I had not come across this article or author until well into my research. Further, Bardacke also released in 2013 a scathing book centered around Chávez and the UFW entitled, Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. Bardacke’s book sparked a lot of research and aided this paper with its extensive bibliography.

In utilizing these two monographs and one scholarly journal article, I will conclude my research paper on whether the liberal or conservative position on Chávez holds more water. The analytical exploration of primary sources to come will retain impartiality for the sake of objectivity. All three authors I have reviewed veer left on the traditional left-right axis, and this may introduce its own bias. The primary sources explored hereafter include: a congressional statement from Chávez, an article from the UFW’s newspaper, New York Times and Los Angeles Times newspaper articles, a KQED public television interview with Chávez, and a socialist critique of his organization from The Militarist.

The most prominent source of the liberal argument is Chávez and the UFW themselves. There is a recurring theme of their firm position on preventing undocumented immigrants from working within the US solely being applied to those who broke strikes. In 1969, Chávez approached a subcommittee within Congress to advocate for legislation favoring collective bargaining rights and the securing of contracts for his unionized workers. His statement was about ten pages long and addressed some sincere concerns for farm workers.[4] Toward the end, however, he castigated the legacy of the Bracero Program as having influenced a generation of Mexicans to cross into America to earn wages and spend them in Mexico without applying for permanent American residence. In the eyes of the UFW, these workers lowered the pay of their union members and stymied overall progress. Chávez stated, “The program lives on in the annual parade of thousands of illegal [sic] and green carders across the United States-Mexico border to work in our fields.”[5] In the following paragraph, Chávez evoked a traditionally-conservative talking point when he requested Congress to adhere to “law and order” by respecting the age-old economic law of supply and demand. Chávez was strategically wrapping his liberal anti-strikebreaker stance with an appeal to conservatives concerned with justice, law, and order.

At the end of this string of arguments he concluded by stating, “What we ask is some way to keep the illegals and green carders from breaking strikes; some civil remedy against growers who employ behind our picket lines those who have entered the United States illegally, and, likewise those green carders who have not permanently moved their residence and domicile to the United States.”[6] This statement solidified the UFW’s policy toward the prevention of undocumented workers from breaking strikes and therefore lends credence to the liberal argument presented throughout this paper.

About five years later the UFW again outlined their viewpoint on undocumented immigrants in their newspaper, El Malcriado. The organization took matters into their own hands and set up a de facto border patrol complete with a long line of “army hospital tents every 300 yards along the border,” a car used for “night patrols” to prevent people from sneaking across at night, and a “light plane […] to watch for illegals crossing during the day.”[7] Additionally, this plane kept in “constant radio contact with strikers on the ground, who [tried] to intercept any aliens reported by the pilot.” The UFW patrolled a 125-mile stretch of Arizona-Mexico border with a focus point in San Luis, Arizona which is where they were holding a strike. Union officials claimed their border patrol was established to prevent the local citrus growers from using the labor of undocumented workers because it negatively impacted this strike at the time.

The article included some choice quotes from strikers on their opinion of the border patrol. One told the paper, “[W]e can’t let them break our strike, in the end we will benefit and they too will benefit. We are suffering for them, they should suffer a little for us.”[8] These workers were used to appeal to emotion and push readers of the paper to agree with the call to prevent potential strikebreakers from Mexico. This line of reasoning comports with the liberal argument in defending the UFW’s actions because their primary goal was to prevent the undermining of strikes by outsiders.

There is an additional twist from a New York Times article written by Robert Lindsey that further corroborated the information presented in the previous El Malcriado article. The article asserted that allegations were made against the UFW claiming they physically assaulted Mexican migrants who dared walk north of their established “wet line” in Yuma, Arizona.[9] Yuma County has San Luis, AZ within it which is where the UFW set up their de facto border patrol. Curiously, Lindsey stated that for seven months Mexican newspapers were publishing stories concerning UFW brutality toward Mexican migrants, but these stories were largely ignored stateside.[10]

The article included an interview with Travis Yancy, a Yuma County sheriff, who witnessed these events. Yancy claimed, “Each [army hospital] tent was manned by five or six of their people who were paid $5 to $7 a day, plus their grub. They’d catch any ‘wet’ coming through and beat the hell out of them using clubs, chains, and five-foot-long flogging whips.” The astonishing article continues stating Yancy also alleged “that the UFW had bombed the houses and burned the cars of potential strike-breaking aliens and bribed Mexican officials not to interfere with the ‘wet line.’”[11] These claims should be taken with a grain of salt, however, there are books one can read which corroborate them using personal interviews with former UFW officials or members.

Near the article’s end, the journalist reached out to Chávez for a statement on these allegations against his organization. Chávez stated, “We had a ‘wet line;’ it cost us a lot of money, and we stopped a lot of illegals. If it happened, I know nothing about it. I tried to look into it. […] I didn’t find anything that made me feel anything wrong had happened.” Whether Chávez was telling the truth or not to a reporter is open to speculation. However, this article gave credence to the actions described in the UFW’s newspaper, albeit with damaging allegations. Still, this further solidifies the conservative position that Chávez and the UFW worked to prevent all Mexican migrants as seen in their strict border patrol monitoring for even passersby.

In September 1972, Chávez went on KQED, a public television station in the San Francisco Bay Area, to inform viewers of the UFW’s difficulties in cementing contracts with larger companies. He noted how pertinent it was to have the right to strike and boycott. For context, Chávez completed a 25-day fast a few months prior to this television interview and he was still riding on the wave of publicity from that. The fasting protest garnered more support and he capitalized on that by going on television to spread the UFW’s message.

The significant portion of this videotaped interview is his frustration with an oil company and their decision to hire 220 undocumented immigrants. He stated, “We’ve closed [the oil company] down. They’ve been unable to get strikebreakers, or have gotten very few. Then, all of a sudden yesterday morning, they brought in two hundred and twenty wetbacks—these are the illegals from Mexico. Now, there’s no way to defend against that kind of strikebreaking.” Chávez then finished his thought by pleading for the city’s inhabitants to boycott the products of companies who partake in this type of strikebreaking. He was clearly indignant to companies hiring undocumented workers from Mexico as he was powerless to prevent it. Or was he? The previous sources paint a picture with César Chávez and the UFW as opposers of out-of-status immigrants taking Mexican-American jobs mainly to prevent a strike from being broken. His statement before Congress and the El Malcriado’s article shed light on this official position. The archived video does not necessarily support the liberal nor conservative position. Although Chávez visually and audibly stumbles after he says “wetbacks,” his body language should be left to viewers to interpret themselves.

However, the story takes a turn when one reads a socialist newsweekly, The Militant, which questioned Chávez and his organization’s motivations in a 1974 article published before their venture with a vigilante border patrol.[12] The author, Miguel Pendás, was a staunch leftist and general supporter of the labor movement. According to a 1974 Viewpoint article, Pendás was an organizer of the first Chicano Moratorium in Northern California in 1970. He was also born of Cuban parents and was sympathetic to the Cuban revolution.[13] Despite this, he criticized César Chávez and the UFW’s policy concerning undocumented immigrants. After presenting the UFW’s stance in their paper El Malcriado stating, “illegals must be granted their full democratic rights […] or they must go” Pendás argued these workers would not have been able to secure any rights if the UFW was covertly calling for their deportation. His full quote is powerful and its inclusion is justified by its significance. Pendás wrote, “But clearly an organization cannot fight for the rights of the undocumented while at the same time demanding their deportation. As long as the UFW leadership continues to provide la migra with names and addresses of undocumented workers, their talk of favoring full rights is so much empty rhetoric designed only to make their deportation position more palatable to the movement.”[14]

Pendás then examined a New York Times piece, published on March 14, 1974, in which Chávez claimed 20 percent of the California field workers were “illegals,” but questioned how Chávez could realistically view these workers, about 50,000 in total, as actual strikebreakers because their multiple strikes had nowhere near that amount of people involved. Pendás dug in further with another Chávez quote: “In one place I knew at least 500 of the 2,000 working were illegal. They came and arrested 19. I say they weren’t really trying to get them.”[15] Here one can see Chávez’s disappointment with lenient INS enforcement. As an aside, I found a Los Angeles Times article from 1979 in which Chávez is quoted as saying, “[Farm worker employers] have got inherent feelings against Mexicans. When this strike first started they were saying racist things like ‘Why don’t you go back to Mexico…you ungrateful Mexican.’”[16] The irony here is just five years prior, Chávez was on record with the New York Times as wanting to send Mexican migrant workers back to Mexico every chance he had.

Coming back to the Militant article, in a crucial paragraph Pendás posited that Chávez and the UFW contradicted their official policy of wanting to curb Mexican immigration solely to prevent strikebreaking. Pendás substantiated his claim with the fact that the UFW was, at the time, still circulating “a petition to Congress to ‘enforce immigration laws’ and ‘remove the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens now working in the fields.’”[17] Pendás’ claim directly refuted the purported policy positions of the UFW because if they were telling the truth, they would not be targeting hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers in the fields for removal by the government. These vast numbers of persons could not have all been strikebreakers threatening the union’s progress. Pendás’ journalistic deliberation offers robust substantiation to the conservative argument. Chávez depended on the coercive action of the INS as much as possible to deport undocumented workers. By doing this, he wanted to ensure his unionized workers were hired in the agriculture sector and rewarded higher pay instead of farms opting for cheap, nonunionized labor.

The legacy of César Chávez has been officially challenged and the evidence is convincing. From his congressional statement one can see he sought legislation to curb Mexican immigration to prevent strikebreaking. The UFW’s El Malcriado boasted about establishing a vigilante border patrol along the Arizona-Mexico border. The New York Times article further corroborated some details in the border patrol article while introducing some troublesome assault allegations. The KQED public television interview displayed Chávez’s frustration with a company hiring hundreds of undocumented workers despite his active strike, but did not explicitly aid the liberal nor conservative argument. Finally, Miguel Pendás’ examination of the UFW added concrete evidence to the conservative argument with Chávez’s admission to the New York Times that he regularly called the INS to deport field workers. Despite the leftist bias of majority of my sources, it appears as though modern-day conservatives may be correct in their allegations against Chávez and the questioning of his legacy in regards to immigration of the undocumented. Much of the evidence presented leans this direction. Chávez was a man of his time, specifically a 1950s Democrat. While his stances may be questionable in hindsight, he did do a lot of essential work for those who needed the help. Chávez was a flawed man like the rest of us. Perhaps my scrutiny will give his admirers pause to reflect on the complexity of this twentieth century labor movement hero. After all, the United Farm Workers union has been fervently committed to immigration reform since the death of Chávez. Their work is not over yet.


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Bibliography

Bardacke, Frank. “The UFW and the Undocumented.” International Labor and Working Class History; Cambridge 83 (Spring 2013): 162–69. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.csusm.edu/10.1017/S0147547913000045.

Chávez, César. Statement of Cesar E. Chavez 1969, § Subcommittee On Labor Of The Senate Committee On Labor And Public Welfare (1969).

“Chávez explains the need for boycotts.” Video, September 25, 1972. Bay Area Television Archive. https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/bundles/189746.

Garcia, Matthew. From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

Lindsey, Robert. “Criticism of Chavez Takes Root in Farm Labor Struggle.” The New York Times, February 7, 1979, sec. Archives. https://www.nytimes.com/1979/02/07/archives/criticism-of-chavez-takes-root-in-farm-labor-struggle-charges-may.html.

Minian, Ana Raquel. Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2018.

Montemayor, Robert, and Evan Maxwell. “Chavez Takes Strike to His Arizona Birthplace.” Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. March 1, 1979, sec. Part I.

Pendás, Miguel. “UFW Supporters Criticize Chavez Call for Deportation of Undocumented Workers.” The Militant. October 11, 1974.

“Speakers For Radical Change.” Viewpoint, 1974.

“UFW Border Patrol.” El Malcriado, November 18, 1974.

Endnotes

[1] Ana Raquel Minian, Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

[2] Matt Garcia, The Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012).

[3] Frank Bardacke, “The UFW and the Undocumented,” International Labor and Working Class History, vol. 83 (2013): 162-169.

[4] César Chávez, “Statement of Cesar E. Chavez 1969,” § Subcommittee on Labor of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare (1969).

[5] Chávez, “Statement of Cesar E. Chavez 1969,” 8.

[6] Chávez, “Statement of Cesar E. Chavez 1969,” 8.

[7] “UFW Border Patrol,” El Malcriado, November 18, 1974, 11, 5.

[8] “UFW Border Patrol,” El Malcriado, November 18, 1974, 11, 5.

[9] Robert Lindsey, “Criticism of Chavez Takes Root in Farm Labor Struggle,” The New York Times, February 7, 1979, sec. Archives, https://www.nytimes.com/1979/02/07/archives/criticism-of-chavez-takes-root-in-farm-labor-struggle-charges-may.html.

[10] Robert Lindsey, “Criticism of Chavez Takes Root in Farm Labor Struggle.”

[11] Robert Lindsey, “Criticism of Chavez Takes Root in Farm Labor Struggle.”

[12] Miguel Pendás, “UFW Supporters Criticize Chavez Call for Deportation of Undocumented Workers,” The Militant, October 11, 1974. 18.

[13] “Speakers For Radical Change,” Viewpoint, 1974. 14.

[14] Pendás, “UFW Supporters Criticize Chavez Call for Deportation of Undocumented Workers,” 18.

[15] Pendás, “UFW Supporters Criticize Chavez Call for Deportation of Undocumented Workers,” 18.

[16] Robert Montemayor and Evan Maxwell, “Chavez Takes Strike to His Arizona Birthplace,” Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif., March 1, 1979, sec. Part I.

[17] Pendás, “UFW Supporters Criticize Chavez Call for Deportation of Undocumented Workers,” 18.

On Harry H. Laughlin: Scrutiny of a Eugenics Agent

This paper was written over the course of four months with extensive research.


Interest in eugenics sparked for me in 2016 when I came across an interview of Adam Cohen wherein he discussed his new book, Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. I had heard the term “eugenics” in passing but did not fully understand the concept. Needless to say, I purchased his book and was enthralled not long after. In essence, eugenics is the pseudo-scientific philosophy of aiming to improve the human race by encouraging those with desirable traits to reproduce and discouraging, or even preventing, those with undesirable traits from having children. Once one finds out this philosophy became a social movement in early twentieth-century America and influenced public policy, one may become both dumbfounded and enraged. My older brother is mentally handicapped and studying eugenics piqued my interest in finding out how previous generations of Americans would have treated him, including wanting to remove him, and others like him, from the human gene pool.

I happened upon an individual in my historical research earlier this year named Harry H. Laughlin. I remembered his name from Cohen’s book as he had been directly involved in the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell whereby a young woman named Carrie Buck was forcefully sterilized, and it was justified by our highest court. In fact, the U.S. has yet to overturn the Buck decision explicitly.[1] The primary purpose of this paper is to diverge from other historians concerning Harry H. Laughlin in that he is often studied regarding his involvement with involuntary sterilization laws and Nazism. In my estimation, Laughlin played a prominent role in American immigration restriction by utilizing eugenics to prevent the country from becoming a nation filled with nonwhite “degenerates” and “social inadequates.” U.S. government bureaucrats continually sought his eugenic research for years.

In late 2016, Douglas C. Baynton, professor of history at the University of Iowa, published Defectives of the Land: Disability and Eugenics in the Age of Eugenics.[2] His unique book examined American immigration through the lens of disability, whereas most academic approaches in this field have focused on ethnicity and race. His main argument throughout his monograph is that American immigration policy was molded over decades and was mostly influenced by numerous factors, but ultimately revolved around preserving an efficient, pure, and competitive American populace. I find myself agreeing with Baynton throughout his research; however, I differ from him because I believe more attention should be paid to Harry H. Laughlin and his role in immigration policymaking. Baynton does not ignore Laughlin in his book, but some of his involvement was relegated to anecdotes.

More recently, Jay Timothy Dolmage, associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo, published Disabled Upon Arrival: Eugenics, Immigration, and the Construction of Race and Disability in March 2018.[3] Dolmage’s principal argument is that current anti-immigration rhetoric is linked to the classical rhetoric of the eugenics movement concerning immigration. His work focuses on the North American continent, specifically the United States and Canada, and photographic documentation of eugenics and immigration. My research differs by focusing on Harry H. Laughlin’s involvement solely in American immigration policy. While Dolmage tried explaining current day phenomena by exposing historical precedents, my goal is to focus on a man glossed over by historians and analyzing Laughlin’s work itself. Dolmage mentions Laughlin a handful of times and mostly in the context of coerced sterilization laws and Nazi influence. Surely, Laughlin is most known for his involvement in the sterilization of immigrants, but I aim to shed light on his other contributions to immigration, namely federal policy.

A seminal work set apart from the previous two is John Higham’s Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 published in early 2002.[4] While it is an impressive work, it mostly analyzes nativism as an emotional and defensive form of nationalism and diverges from my research from the start. Higham sought to find the causes of emotional and violent outbreaks throughout our nation’s history, and as one might expect from his title, he studies events between the American Civil War and the Johnson-Reed Act wherein Harry H. Laughlin was directly involved. For about ten pages, Higham mentions Laughlin’s relationship with Albert Johnson, his research facility, and Congress, but does not delve into much detail regarding Laughlin himself. Higham provides a decent backdrop of Laughlin’s activities, at least concerning immigration, which then sets his work apart from that of Baynton and Dolmage.

Two years after Higham’s exceptional monograph came yet another when Princeton University Press published Mae M. Ngai’s Impossible Subjects: Illegal Immigrants and the Making of Modern America.[5] Ngai cites Higham’s book a few times in her introduction to “Part I: The Regime of Quotas and Papers.” As did other authors, Ngai dedicated few words to Laughlin, and all discussion concerning his involvement in immigration restriction is contained within a single page of her first chapter. She clearly stated that historians often focus on race-nativism in the context of the Immigration Act of 1924, but she chose to focus on other ways race constructions morphed the immigration restriction debate. Ngai mentioned that the national quota system took racism to a new level beyond mere eugenics and that the national conversation shifted away from racial superiority to racial differences “as the basis for exclusionary policies.” However, I will argue how Harry H. Laughlin was very much involved in this, and his eugenics work was not far removed from the nationality hierarchy Ngai described in her book.

A scholarly article which immediately caught my attention was Steven A. Farber’s U.S. Scientists’ Role in the Eugenics Movement (1907–1939): A Contemporary Biologist’s Perspective published in 2008.[6] Farber gives a brief overview of how the scientific community was involved in the eugenics movement. His main argument is that the topic of eugenics was not fringe but instead embraced by mainstream institutions both in the United States and in Europe. Like other authors, sterilization laws are invoked when Laughlin is mentioned along with tying him to Nazi Germany. However, in a section where Farber is presenting American eugenicists’ relationship with Nazis, he provides a quote from Laughlin’s associate Charles B. Davenport regarding studies that Laughlin performed on behalf of the U.S. government. In my paper, I will explore these studies with a fine-tooth comb.

In Fit For Citizenship? published in 2015, Michelle Chen provides a quick overview of the intersection of racial science and immigration policy.[7] Harry H. Laughlin is mentioned on the very first page, although only in passing, as Chen goes on to provide a chronological narrative of eugenically influenced immigration. Her article focuses on racial science and its tests as administered at immigration gateways such as Ellis Island. Chen provides sourced photographs regarding the racist aspects of immigration tests very usefully, but this veers away from the focus of my own paper.

These four monographs and two scholarly articles set the tone for my paper, but also showcase arguments and thought processes that are distinct from my own analysis of American eugenics and immigration history. What is to follow is a careful dissection of several primary sources including, but not limited to: congressional hearing transcripts, private correspondence, institutional reports, journal articles, and pamphlets.[8] The original sources examined hereafter will be chronologically presented as to make their interpretation clean and linear. Before I delve into the documents, however, a background of Harry H. Laughlin and his eugenics work is required.

Harry Hamilton Laughlin came from humble beginnings. He was born in Oskaloosa, Iowa in 1880 and was among nine other siblings, four of them brothers. Once they moved to Kirksville, Missouri his father, George Hamilton Laughlin, taught English at Truman State University, which was Kirksville State Normal School at the time. H. L. Laughlin was first a principal, then a superintendent before becoming an agriculture professor at his father’s college in 1907.[9] He was very interested in plant breeding and sex determination in individual plants. That same year, he contacted Charles B. Davenport who was then working as a zoologist out of Long Island, NY and subsequently invited Laughlin to partake in his summer college course on genetics. They remained in contact after that. Laughlin had a few hobbies, including wanting to find out a way to breed a horse that could win every race. Davenport suggested he shift his focus to a more inviting space: humans and eugenics.[10] Three short years later, Laughlin was co-founding the Eugenics Record Office (ERO), which was a research department of the Carnegie Institute of Washington, and overseen by Davenport in Cold Harbor Spring, New York.

Laughlin’s eugenic views developed over the years while being superintendent of this research center. At the ERO, Laughlin drafted scientifically-not-so-rigorous questionnaires asking people about their family histories and their own physical and mental traits to create what the ERO specialized in, family pedigrees. He then scrutinized the information and created graphs and tables based on his statistical observations. The ERO was attempting to gain a rudimentary understanding of human traits and figure out if they could be isolated or not. Davenport instructed Laughlin to base his eugenics research off of Gregor Mendel’s theories of genetics and hereditary, like the laws of Mendelian inheritance. Mendel, a Czechoslovakian monk, found out in the mid-nineteenth century that plants had both dominant and recessive traits. This shifted the standard to which agricultural scientists studied genetics and heredity.[11]

The overall concentration of his work shifted from the discovery of human genes for specific traits that could be removed from the gene pool to applying his statistical findings to things the government was interested in like criminality. Interestingly, Laughlin suffered from epilepsy, which was one of the broader categories of defects the U.S. government listed as a deportable “offense.”[12] It makes one curious why this man was at the helm of promoting eugenics-inspired immigration law when he was “defective” himself. In his first official report in 1914, Laughlin directed his researchers to study and report their best ideas on how to eradicate a certain germ-plasm responsible for turning American citizens into criminals.[13] He was inspired by German biologist August Weismann’s germ-plasm theory which posited that heritable information was transmitted to offspring through germ cells of the gonads rather than by somatic cells. Laughlin became obsessed with stopping undesirable traits, the practice of negative eugenics, from spreading throughout the population.

He continually lobbied for sterilization laws. Sterilization laws were common by 1914 as twelve states already had their own version. They were used to keep the American stock pure by sterilizing prisoners, mental hospital patients, and anyone else deemed unworthy of reproducing. Despite their popularity, the laws were rarely enforced throughout the years, and Laughlin wanted to find a solution. In 1922, he included his Model Eugenical Sterilization Law in chapter fifteen of his book, Eugenical Sterilization in the United States, which he wrote to avoid bureaucratic confusion over responsibility and any questionable clauses written by some state legislatures.[14] Virginia used his model law to craft their own the same year. The first person to be legally and forcefully sterilized by the state was Carrie Buck, subject of the infamous Supreme Court case, Buck v. Bell, referred to in the introduction.

Laughlin was determined to use eugenics to scientifically manage the country’s genetic makeup and worked both directly and indirectly with state and federal governments to make it happen. Beginning in 1920, Laughlin and the ERO conducted a study of mental hospital patients, then called inmates, in an attempt to record their nationalities and physical or mental defects. This information was used to determine immigration quotas for each country and was presented to Congress in a report near the end of 1922. In late 1923, Laughlin was commissioned by the Department of Labor to visit numerous European countries over eight months to study their policies concerning emigrants to the United States. He collected hundreds of pages worth of data. His findings were reported before Congress in early 1924 and were used in the congressional debates over national origin quotas and the upcoming change to immigration law. Now that an elemental background has been established, primary documents will be quoted from and analyzed. Along the way, eugenics will be shown to be a commonly accepted science among American elites like professors of prestigious colleges, wealthy entrepreneurs, and prominent scientists, but not without its detractors.

In a 1914 journal article, five professors of a small eugenics committee on immigration urged Congress and other readers to consider applying eugenic-inspired measurement tools to change immigration law. This was around the time that eugenics and immigration began to merge indeed. President Taft had just rejected the literacy test requirement for immigrants at our borders, and a year later, President Wilson did too.[15] These professors posited that American economic opportunities drew lots of immigrants and moneyed interests sought open, unrestricted immigration to satisfy their cheap labor force. Midway through the article, the author cited the ERO’s first report referenced earlier and quoted, “The Federal Government which has control of immigration owes it to the American people on biological grounds to exclude from the country this degenerate breeding stock.”[16] The author went on to criticize immigration inspectors for being lax on immigration laws and being paid off by steamship companies. The article concluded with a resolution all of the professors signed onto for Congress saying the 1914 bill would “unquestionably result in a more effective detection, exclusion, and deportation of mentally and physically defective aliens.” This article shows that academic elites favored eugenics, were aware of Laughlin’s research and wanted it applied to restrict immigration as early as 1914.

A reviewer named Henry B. Hemmenway heavily criticized the ERO’s first report on the elimination of the germ-plasm responsible for criminality using sterilization in 1914. Throughout his review, Hemmenway questioned the validity of the ERO’s methods, including the lack of the primary scientific method. Hemmenway stated, “[The ERO] is recommending radical operations [forced sterilizations] on a priori reasoning, and on ‘feeling’ generated in hearsay evidence.”[17] He consistently pointed out that Laughlin and his colleagues based much of their research results on untested anecdotal evidence and made proclamations based on their feelings. Hemmenway directly refuted the ERO’s theory when he claimed, “Since criminality is essentially an ethical problem, and dependent apparently upon lack of moral education, we should not expect it to be transmitted in the germ plasm.” This reviewer was one voice of many who spoke against the pseudo-science of eugenics and the work of Harry H. Laughlin.

The Committee on Immigration and Naturalization of the Sixty-sixth Congress heard statements in full by Laughlin regarding an allegedly necessary biological, read: eugenic, aspect of immigration policy in April 1920. Laughlin’s opening statement laid out a definition for a nation’s character, which he saw simply comprised of our racial qualities. Afterward, he hinted at a study he was currently in the process of carrying out by having wards of mental hospitals report back every patient’s own nationality and defect(s). Laughlin showed concern about defective immigrants reproducing and suggested foreign-born immigrant women had more children than natural-born citizens. The committee was also concerned about the economic burden caused by local and state mental hospital costs borne by taxpayers. Laughlin produced several examples he had on hand from a study he performed at the behest of the Bureau of the Census. In one case, Laughlin pointed out that, “Massachusetts spends 30.5 per cent [sic] of all her State government expenditures for the maintenance of the State institutions for the socially inadequate.”[18] By appealing to the committee’s concern for the economic welfare of American states, Laughlin was effectively using it as a wedge to further his negative eugenic agenda. One member of the committee, Mr. Box, questioned Laughlin if he had studied the inferiority difference between different European countries whose emigrants came here. Laughlin answered by stating much of our nation is made up of Northwestern European stock and that immigrants from this region assimilate better than other inferior areas. This may have been the beginning of the national origin quotas sought by other politicians of the time.

Laughlin wanted to extend the class taxonomy of the classic “3 Ds” (the defective, delinquent, and dependent) to which sociologists of the time often referred. In July 1921, he wrote a journal article calling for a more nuanced classification system for defective immigrants. He noted the types of people in need of further classification were those in need of “special care,” those who generally “do not contribute in net to the general welfare,” and those that are “in net a drag upon those [normal and productive] members of the community.”[19] The extent of the article was quoting lots of other scientists and politicians asking for more distinction in sorting the socially inadequate immigrants.

About six months after publishing his article on sorting the socially inadequate, Laughlin produced a pamphlet on behalf of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization in January 1922.[20] Its purpose was to inform American state institutions on how to fill out certified forms the committee sent them regarding the “racial and diagnostic classifications” of their inmates. These forms were the basis of Laughlin’s “Melting Pot” survey. First, the officers were to record the racial identity of each inmate and then designate them with a secondary class regarding their mental, physical, or cultural “defects.” This congressional pamphlet is the first publication including Laughlin’s ten official categories of social inadequates and all of their subcategories. Laughlin’s primary diagnostic classifications, in full, consisted of the: (1) feeble-minded (including the mentally backward); (2) insane (including the neurotic and psychopathic) (3) criminalistic (including the delinquent and wayward); (4) epileptic; (5) inebriate (including drug habitués); (6) diseased (including the tuberculous, syphilitic, leprous, and others with chronic, infectious, segregated diseases); (7) blind (including those with greatly impaired vision); (8) deaf (including those with greatly impaired hearing); (9) crippled (including the deformed and the ruptured); and (10) dependent (including orphans, old folks, soldiers, and sailors in homes and institutions). These categories were similar to those for deporting “Class A” aliens that can be seen in the provisions of section three of the Immigration Act of 1917.[21] Laughlin’s designations were much broader and allowed for more deportations and exclusion.

Laughlin appeared before the immigration committee a second time in November 1922. His purpose in this hearing was to provide Congress statements regarding the ERO’s two-year mental hospital “Melting Pot” study to influence more immigration restriction. His report was precisely one hundred pages and covered such topics as the literacy test, intelligence levels, the total number of social inadequates, and included some conclusions, solutions, and statistical graphs and tables.[22] Inspired by Senator William Dunningham, Laughlin suggested a quota fulfillment system based on his “Melting Pot” data collection. At one point, Mr. Vaile of the committee asked Laughlin why he used the 1910 census instead of the one from 1920. Laughlin’s justification was that these social inadequates didn’t go directly from Ellis Island to the institutions, but alternatively mixed with the free population until segregated. Therefore, data from a previous census made more logical sense to account for the time it took for these immigrants to enter mental hospitals. With presenting the committee with statistical data for each type of social inadequacy, Laughlin showed immigrants of Southeastern European family stock were the most troublesome across all subtypes. In his conclusion, Laughlin stated, “the recent immigrants [of Southern and Eastern Europe], as a whole, present a higher percentage of inborn socially inadequate qualities than do the older stocks.”[23] In part, this suggestion was weighed heavily by the committee and influenced later immigration restriction debate.

About two years later, Laughlin made his third appearance before the same immigration committee. This time around he was tasked with sharing his findings from an eight-month study done around Europe and the preliminary report was titled, “Europe as an Emigrant-Exporting Continent and the United States as an Immigrant-Receiving Nation.” At the beginning of the hearing, Laughlin was questioned in what official capacity was he working in Europe. He answered that he was a “dollar a year man” in that he received the salary of one dollar for his entire study on behalf of the Department of Labor which commissioned his work.[24] After showing the committee charts regarding Swedish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants to the U.S., Laughlin suggested the U.S. require countries exporting “would-be emigrants” to provide an American diplomat with family pedigrees of each and every potential immigrant. He also suggested the home countries of these immigrants should have performed extra mental and physical tests to add a filter to their immigration restriction. It is worth noting that this hearing and Laughlin’s report were issued two months before President Coolidge signed the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the Johnson-Reed Act. It placed further restrictions on immigration following the 1921 policy by setting the “national origins” quota for each nationality as their representative percentage recorded in the 1890 census; a clear strategy to debar Southeastern Europe. Representative Albert Johnson of the immigration committee, among others, sought scientific justifications for their restriction agenda akin to how science, statistics, and data are used today by intellectuals and bureaucrats to justify their means to predetermined ends. Laughlin provided that data. He was not without his critics, however.

Less than a month later, Laughlin received correspondence from Irving Fisher, professor at Yale, in the official capacity as chairman of the Eugenics Committee of the United States of America. Fisher asked Laughlin, “Have you seen Ezekiel Cheever’s ‘School Issues’ for March 1924, containing a criticism of the statistical analysis in your Hearings before the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization?”[25] A couple of days later, Laughlin wrote Fisher back with saying very little of substance. He acknowledged awareness of the criticism but confessed he did not engage them in any meaningful fashion. Laughlin noted that “[W]e have made statistical studies in a field which is just now being argued in a very hot partisan manner in Congress.”[26] He concluded that his critics were pro-open immigration while partisans of his ilk “have found considerable ammunition in my papers.” Mostly, Laughlin brushed off legitimate concerns over his studies as mere zealotry from the other side of the aisle. A week later, Dr. Llewellyn F. Barker also sent Charles B. Davenport a Baltimore Sun clipping of Ezekiel Cheever’s criticism. Barker pointed out that Cheever criticized Laughlin’s lack of state-to-state data, and his conniving use of statistics to make it appear that “social inadequates” were more prevalent than they were in reality. Interestingly, in Davenport’s private correspondence back to Barker, he shared a damning statement regarding Laughlin’s scientific rigor. Davenport explained:

There were two reasons why he did not; first, the work of calculating for each of 10 to 40 more states the quota and its fulfillment for each of 9 classes of inadequacy, distributed among about 30 nationalities would have taken much more time and assistance than he had at his disposal. Also, to have segregated by state and nationality and trait would have left such small frequencies in many cases as to lead to the fantastic ratio often given by small numbers.[27]

Davenport implied that the Eugenics Record Office was working under a deadline for Congress to pass the 1924 act, Laughlin rushed his study and made the data skewed to their liking. As I claimed earlier, the elite eugenicists within Congress used Laughlin’s work as a means to justify their restriction ends. Harry H. Laughlin had a direct role in shaping U.S. immigration policy.

The U.S. government continued to heed the advice and contemplate data provided by Laughlin well after the Immigration Act of 1924. In 1927, the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization commissioned Laughlin to conduct a study on American inventors and their family trees. The study’s goal was to “explain the relation which we are finding between racial descent and inventiveness.”[28] Laughlin sent out returnable postcards whereby inventors were expected to fill out their name, sex, occupation, and place of birth. In a few lines, they were also told to provide their inventions’ purpose, patent numbers, and their Old World racial decent including how many generations of their family lived in America—this section was marked as “especially important.”[29] Several letters were exchanged between inventors and Laughlin in 1927. Some stood out more than others with one being the Browning Arms Company claiming John M. Browning was responsible for over 200 gun patents including the machine gun.[30] It took a few years for Laughlin to collect all of the letters he could and compile data. In 1931, he released a table titled, “Index of Inventiveness” showing in descending order the nationalities of the most inventive people. He reached a quotient for each nationality by dividing the total number of patents a racial group held by the percentage of their national origin. Laughlin deemed the French, Swedish, and Dutch as the most inventive nationalities while the Polish, Italians, Latin Americans, and Africans at the very bottom.[31] In the end, it was not entirely clear to what extent the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization used this data.

While studying the inventive characteristics of individual races, Laughlin was also conducting a study of the national origins of U.S. senators. In an amusing letter, the then-Senator from Maryland, William Cabell Bruce, scolded Laughlin. His correspondence was short enough to provide in full: “Believing that the science of eugenics, if it is a science at all, is still in its infancy. I prefer not to subject my family history as a sort of corpus vile for dissection to your association.”[32] Laughlin replied by saying the study had “nothing to do with politics” and that it was “simply a study of geographical and racial origins of members of the United States Senate.”[33] About a month later, Laughlin surprisingly wrote to the editor of the Baltimore Sun after William C. Bruce never replied. He stated, “We fail to find a statement of the racial descent of Senator William C. Bruce. Doubtless, because of your wide acquaintance with the distinguished men of your community you have this information in hand.”[34] These letters show that Laughlin was quite involved with the U.S. government in at least one committee’s work.

Throughout this paper, we have seen the number of ways in which Harry H. Laughlin was involved with U.S. immigration policy and utilized the pseudo-science of eugenics to do so. Apart from responsibility for involuntary sterilization policies and Buck v. Bell, Laughlin, his colleagues, and his eugenic associations were detrimental to shaping immigration quotas. His numerous studies were used by the U.S. government to justify limiting immigrants from certain parts of the world at different points throughout his career as superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office and on the board of a few other eugenics-related associations and groups. Unfortunately, his legacy of immigration restriction and forced sterilization laws carries on into the twenty-first century. The bright side is that most modern eugenics is of the Galtonian positive type and used by many families. Laughlin’s negative eugenics went by the wayside after its association with Nazism in the late 1930s and majority of Americans today do not think in terms of eliminating anyone from the gene pool. There are tremendous resources for the disabled, both physical and mental, and it is continually growing. For that, we should be grateful.


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Bibliography

Baynton, Douglas C. Defectives in the Land: Disability and Immigration in the Age of Eugenics. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Bird, Randall D., and Garland Allen. “The J. H. B. Archive Report: The Papers of Harry Hamilton Laughlin, Eugenicist.” Journal of the History of Biology14, no. 2 (1981): 339–353.

Browning, John. “Browning Arms Company Letter to Laughlin about Research Study on Immigration,” September 2, 1927. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/view_image.pl?id=1204.

Cance, Alexander E., James A. Field, Irving Fisher, Prescott F. Hall, and Robert Dec Ward. “Second Report of the Committee on Immigration of the Eugenics Section of the American Genetic Association.” Journal of Heredity5, no. 7 (July 1, 1914): 297–300.

Charles B. Davenport. “Letter from Davenport to Barker Concerning Baltimore Sun Writer’s Criticisms of Statistics in Relation to Quota System,” April 18, 1924. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1174.html.

Chen, Michelle. “Fit for Citizenship? The Eugenics Movement and Immigration Policy.” Dissent (00123846)62, no. 2 (Spring 2015): 73–80.

Dolmage, Jay. Disabled upon Arrival: Eugenics, Immigration, and the Construction of Race and Disability. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press, 2018.

Farber, Steven A. “U.S. Scientists’ Role in the Eugenics Movement (1907–1939): A Contemporary Biologist’s Perspective.” Zebrafish5, no. 4 (December 2008): 243–245.

Hemmenway, Henry B. “Review of ERO’s Germ-Plasm Report.” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology5, no. 4 (1914): 623–626.

Higham, John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. ACLS Humanities E-Book. New Brunswick, N.J., New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Irving Fisher. “Letter from Fisher to Laughlin about Cheever’s Attack on Laughlin’s Analysis,” April 9, 1924. Accessed May 11, 2019. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1171.html.

Laughlin, Harry H. Analysis of America’s Modern Melting Pot. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, November 21, 1922. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015037355750.

Laughlin, Harry H. Biological Aspects of Immigration. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1920. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/image_header.pl?id=1113&printable=1&detailed=0.

Laughlin, Harry H. “Classification Standards Pamphlet.” Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, January 1, 1922. Eugenics Archive. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/image_header.pl?id=1179&printable=1&detailed=0.

Laughlin, Harry H. Eugenical Sterilization in the United States. Chicago, IL: Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago, 1922. Accessed March 8, 2019. http://archive.org/details/eugenicalsterili00laug.

Laughlin, Harry H. Europe as an Emigrant-Exporting Continent and the United States as an Immigrant-Receiving Nation. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1924. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.c063885764.

Laughlin, Harry H. “Index of Inventiveness,” 1931. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1220.html.

Laughlin, Harry H. “Laughlin Response to C. Bruce’s Objections to the Racial Descent Study of U.S. Senators,” February 23, 1927. Accessed May 11, 2019. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1216.html.

Laughlin, Harry H. “Laughlin’s Letter to Baltimore Sun about Getting Data on C. Bruce for Racial Descent Study of U.S. Senators,” March 28, 1927. Accessed May 15, 2019. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1217.html.

Laughlin, Harry H. “Letter from Laughlin to Irving Fisher about Statistical Criticisms,” April 11, 1924. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1172.html.

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Robinson, Richard. “Mendel, Gregor.” In Genetics, edited by Richard Robinson, 3:30–32. New York, NY: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003. Accessed May 15, 2019. http%3A%2F%2Flink.galegroup.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FCX3406500175%2FGVRL%3Fu%3Dsanmarcoscsu%26sid%3DGVRL%26xid%3D79848a7e.

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William C. Bruce. “C. Bruce Letter to H. Laughlin Objecting to the Racial Descent Study of U.S. Senators,” February 5, 1927. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1215.html.

Wilson, P. K. “Harry Laughlin’s Eugenic Crusade to Control the ‘socially Inadequate’ in Progressive Era America.” Patterns of Prejudice36, no. 1 (January 1, 2002): 49–67.

“Alien Ancestry of Inventors Is Studied by U.S.” Science Service. Washington, D.C., November 2, 1927. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1208.html.

“Inventor’s Foreign Ancestry Studied.” Baltimore Evening Sun, 1927. http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1210.html.

“Lessons in an Unappealing Law.” Harvard Gazette, October 11, 2013. Accessed May 14, 2019. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/10/lessons-in-an-unappealing-law/.

“Wilson Will Veto Immigration Bill; Objects to Literacy Test for New Citizens, as President Taft Did. May Be Passed over Veto. Literacy Test Had Big Majority in Both Houses — Rejection Message Goes to Congress Today.” The New York Times, January 28, 1915. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1915/01/28/archives/wilson-will-veto-immigration-bill-objects-to-literacy-test-for-new.html.

Endnotes

[1]“Lessons in an Unappealing Law,” Harvard Gazette, October 11, 2013, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/10/lessons-in-an-unappealing-law/.

[2]Douglas C. Baynton, Defectives in the Land: Disability and Immigration in the Age of Eugenics, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2016).

[3]Jay Dolmage, Disabled Upon Arrival: Eugenics, Immigration, and the Construction of Race and Disability, (Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press, 2018).

[4]John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925, (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002).

[5]Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004).

[6]Steven A. Farber, “U.S. Scientists’ Role in the Eugenics Movement (1907–1939): A Contemporary Biologist’s Perspective,” Zebrafish 5, no. 4 (December 2008): 242–45.

[7]Michelle Chen, “Fit for Citizenship? The Eugenics Movement and Immigration Policy,” Dissent62, no. 2 (Spring 2015): 73–80.

[8]It’s worth mentioning that my access to Laughlin primary sources was limited by the fact that most of them are not available online, but rather, kept in storage boxes at Truman State University where he and his father worked as professors. Still, I made great use of eugenicsarchive.com, which is a legitimate web source run by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with scanned documents from the treasure trove known as the “Harry H. Laughlin Papers.”

[9]Rachel Gur-Arie, “Harry Hamilton Laughlin,” in Embryo Project(Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University, December 19, 2014), https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/harry-hamilton-laughlin-1880-1943.

[10]P. K. Wilson, “Harry Laughlin’s Eugenic Crusade to Control the ‘Socially Inadequate’ in Progressive Era America,” Patterns of Prejudice36, no. 1 (January 1, 2002): 49–67, https://doi.org/10.1080/003132202128811367.

[11]Richard Robinson, “Mendel, Gregor,” in Genetics, ed. Richard Robinson, vol. 3 (New York, NY: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003), 30–32.

[12]Gur-Arie, “Harry Hamilton Laughlin”

[13]Harry H. Laughlin, “Report of the Committee to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means of Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the American Population: The Scope of the Committee’s Work” (Long Island, NY: Eugenics Record Office, February 1914).

[14]Harry H. Laughlin and Chicago Municipal Court. Psychiatric Institute, Eugenical Sterilization in the United States(Chicago, IL: Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago, 1922).

[15]“Wilson Will Veto Immigration Bill; Objects to Literacy Test for New Citizens, as President Taft Did. May Be Passed over Veto. Literacy Test Had Big Majority in Both Houses — Rejection Message Goes to Congress Today,” The New York Times, January 28, 1915, https://www.nytimes.com/1915/01/28/archives/wilson-will-veto-immigration-bill-objects-to-literacy-test-for-new.html.

[16]Alexander E. Cance et al., “Second Report of the Committee on Immigration of the Eugenics Section of the American Genetic Association,” Journal of Heredity5, no. 7 (July 1, 1914): 298, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.jhered.a107874.

[17]Henry B. Hemmenway, “Review and Criticism of the ERO’s Germ-Plasm Report,” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology5, no. 4 (1914): 623–626.

[18]Harry H. Laughlin, “Biological Aspects of Immigration,” § Committee on Immigration and Naturalization (April 16-17, 1920), http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/image_header.pl?id=1113&printable=1&detailed=0.

[19]Harry H. Laughlin, “The Socially Inadequate: How Shall We Designate and Sort Them?” American Journal of Sociology27, no. 1 (July 1921): 68.

[20]Harry H. Laughlin, “Classification Standards Pamphlet” (Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, January 1, 1922), http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/image_header.pl?id=1179&printable=1&detailed=0.

[21]U.S. Public Health Service, “Regulations Governing the Medical Inspection of Aliens, August 1917” (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1917), 24-25, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/nnc1.cu16909640.

[22]Harry H. Laughlin, “Analysis of America’s Modern Melting Pot” (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, November 21, 1922), http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015037355750.

[23]Harry H. Laughlin, “Analysis of America’s Modern Melting Pot,” 755.

[24]Harry H. Laughlin, “Europe as an Emigrant-Exporting Continent and the United States as an Immigrant-Receiving Nation” (1924) 1231-1232, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.c063885764.

[25]Irving Fisher, “Letter from Fisher to Laughlin about Cheever’s Attack on Laughlin’s Analysis,” April 9, 1924, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1171.html.

[26]Harry H. Laughlin, “Letter from Laughlin to Irving Fisher about Statistical Criticisms,” April 11, 1924, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1172.html.

[27]Charles B. Davenport, “Letter from Davenport to Barker Concerning Baltimore Sun Writer’s Criticisms of Statistics in Relation to Quota System,” April 18, 1924,http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1174.html.

[28]“Inventor’s Foreign Ancestry Studied,” Baltimore Evening Sun, 1927, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1210.html.

[29]“Alien Ancestry of Inventors Is Studied by U.S.,” Science Service, November 2, 1927, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1208.html.

[30]John Browning, “Browning Arms Company Letter to Laughlin about Research Study on Immigration,” September 2, 1927, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/view_image.pl?id=1204.

[31]Harry H. Laughlin, “Index of Inventiveness,” 1931, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1220.html.

[32]William C. Bruce, “C. Bruce Letter to H. Laughlin Objecting to the Racial Descent Study of U.S. Senators,” February 5, 1927, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1215.html.

[33]Harry H. Laughlin, “Laughlin Response to C. Bruce’s Objections to the Racial Descent Study of U.S. Senators,” February 23, 1927, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1216.html.

[34]Harry H. Laughlin, “Laughlin’s Letter to Baltimore Sun about Getting Data on C. Bruce for Racial Descent Study of U.S. Senators,” March 28, 1927, http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/images/1217.html.