At the time of the Mexican-American War, United States President James K. Polk saw an opportunity for the country to “manifest” its destiny by expanding its territory. Before calling for military action, Polk sent diplomat John Sidell to Mexico to settle a controversy regarding the border between the two countries. Polk pushed Mexican officials to accept a deal for $25 million in exchange for Mexico’s territories in California and New Mexico.
Mexico didn’t bite on the deal, and the United States responded by sending thousands of troops near the Nueces River and the Rio Grande, a territory owned by Mexico. Congress officially voted to declare war on Mexico on May 13, 1846.
The war was controversial, and some of Polk’s critics argued that he provoked Mexico into war. When he was an Illinois congressman, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech questioning the motives behind the Mexican-American War. He called the war unnecessary and unconstitutional and said Polk was looking for “military glory.”
Polk had believed the war would only last three to four months, but it lasted nearly two years until the Treaty of Gudalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848. When the treaty was signed the United States found itself with over 500,000 square miles of new land. Just as important as new land, thousands of Mexicans became foreigners in their own home. They were faced with a choice: stay and gain citizenship in the United States, or leave.
The Treaty of Guadlupe Hidalgo had sections that were supposed to protect property rights of Mexicans who were living in territory that belonged to the United States after the war. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and the period after the war was a dark time for many Mexicans now in U.S. territory. They fell victim to fraud, violence and a legal system that heavily favored white Americans.
History has a funny and sometimes cruel way of repeating itself. Today we see a government arguing and leveraging the lives of Mexicans who are in the DACA program, a lot of which that have only known the United States to be their home. We see a President pushing and almost encouraging racial tension toward Mexican immigrants as he calls for a border wall.
Broken promises from the treaty draw disturbing similarities to what we see today with the DACA program. It’s been 170 years since the Treaty of Gudalupe Hidalgo was signed, and Mexicans are seeing a repeat in history.