Associated Press
Sun, Feb. 08, 2004

U.S., Mexicans to Meet Over Reparations

Associated Press

  MEXICO CITY - Interior Department officials have agreed to meet with leaders of a group that forced its way onto the family ranch of President Vicente Fox, a
  department spokesman reported Sunday.

  Hundreds of protesters demanding restitution for Mexicans who worked in the United States during and after World War II pushed past private guards and spent about
  four hours Saturday at the ranch, located about 185 miles northwest of Mexico City in the state of Guanajuato.

  Fox was on a different part of the ranch when the protesters entered. He did not meet with them.

  The protest was led by workers who participated in temporary-worker programs in the United States from 1942 to 1964. The workers, known as "braceros," have been
  lobbying for years to recuperate pay that was withheld and never returned to them after they went back to Mexico.

  An Interior Department official negotiated the withdrawal from the ranch by the alliance of former braceros, promising an audience with officials in Mexico City.

  Mexicans who worked in the United States under the braceros program had about 10 percent of their paychecks withheld for savings and pension funds that were
  supposed to be paid once they returned to Mexico.

  But they never got the money, which previously was thought to have disappeared at a government bank in Mexico. Last year Mexican officials said there is no evidence that the United States ever sent Mexico the money deducted from the paychecks of guest workers.

  The Interior Department repeated that assertion after Saturday's demonstration, saying the federal government has no legal basis for paying former braceros because
  there is no record of the funds ever being received in Mexico.

  An official registry of braceros was compiled in 2003 to help deal with the problem.