History of the Maquiladora Program

The origin of what would become the Border Industrialization Program occurred during World War II. The United States and Mexican governments implemented the Bracero Program in August of 1942 to bring more manual labor to farms. Thousands of migrant workers crossed the border to the United States in order to make more money during a time of uncertainty and poverty. Although many could not read, write, or even speak English, they were forced to sign contracts that they could not understand. Consequently, they did not question their rights and abuses of them were common. When the contracts were up, they were required to return to Mexico. This was especially true over the next few decades when the United States government would call for more workers during times of economic turmoil and effectively give the migrants "the boot" in times of economic boom. The program was not supposed to continue; however it led to the Border Industrialization Program instead of dissolving after the end of the war. The B.I.P. was established in the early to mid 1960s to replace the Bracero program. It established factories that would import parts from other countries and assemble them using Mexican labor. The supplies could be imported duty-free into Mexico and were only taxed on the value added. All of the products made in the maquilas are exported, to the United States and overseas. Mexican citizens do not benefit from the products made in Mexico-they only help to produce them.

One thing that attracted companies to establish factories in Mexico was the fact that Mexican labor was cheaper than U.S. labor. This cheap labor gave Mexico a comparative advantage in manufacturing products. Maquiladora factories are mostly located in urban centers along the U.S.-Mexico border, from Matamoros (across from Brownsville) to Tijuana (across from San Diego) (Lindquist 2001). About 90% of maquilas are located along the border, with one third concentrated in Juarez (NMEDD).