Four years ago, I wrote a short blog post about a preliminary settlement in the case of Mexican braceros denied wages earned as guest workers in the U.S. in World War II.

Since that time, the post has attracted a steady flow of visitors searching the web for information about receiving compensation for family members who were braceros. These visitors, and the comments they’ve left asking for information, indicate just how many uncompensated braceros remain in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as the rampant confusion surrounding this case.

I have no expertise in the handling of claims for the braceros program. However, because of the number of visitors who’ve asked for information, and the fact that this exchange is buried in the comments on that page, I want to provide here a summary of what I know.

My understanding from reading newspaper and scholarly accounts is that the process for claiming compensation depends upon whether the former braceros, or any heirs, live in Mexico or in the United States.

In the case of residents of the U.S., the class action lawsuit dictated the process to be followed, and the first step was to contact the nearest Mexican consulate for information and to file a claim. For example, as of a year ago, the Mexican consulate in Yuma, Arizona was actively seeking former braceros who had filed a claim but not yet received compensation. Each claimant is apparently receiving about $3,000 U.S.

In the case of residents of Mexico, all claims are handled by the Mexican government. I believe that requires contacting a Mexican federal office for information or to pursue a claim.

If anyone has better or more recent information than this, please leave it in the comments, and I will update the main post.

“Quick Takes” offers a mix of news, opinion, and research related to race, privilege, and inequality.

Today’s “Quick Takes” includes the origins of “Kumbaya,” the politics of black hairstyles, the debate over the problem of race in our society, and one of the largest civil rights settlements in U.S. history.

Readers are encouraged to share these stories and to offer their thoughts at the end of the post.

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U.N. World Conference Against RacismIn an important development in the controversy over next month’s U.N. conference on racism, negotiators have removed several controversial passages, including references to Israel, religious defamation, and reparations for slavery, from the draft conference text.

This change follows a threat by the European Union to boycott the Durban Review Conference (also known as Durban II), and it may permit the United States to participate in the conference in Geneva in April. The U.S. and other nations had earlier threatened to boycott the conference if there were not changes to these passages in the document, while Canada and Israel had already announced that they were not attending because of the specific references to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The draft text, which still must be reviewed by regional groups, is not yet public. So it is not clear, for instance, whether the shortened text drops all references to reparations for slavery, or whether it merely reverts to the milder language adopted at Durban in 2001. That language, which the U.S. said weeks ago that it was willing to accept, acknowledged the history of slavery, particularly the transatlantic slave trade, and suggested that reparations for slavery are appropriate, while stopping short of actually calling on nations to offer reparations.

Queen LiliuokalaniThe U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on the issue of whether apologies issued to Hawaii give native Hawaiians a legal claim to lands seized in the 19th century.

The Court will have to judge whether an apology was a mere statement of regret, or whether, even without additional language, the apology creates legal responsibilities.

The case has important implications for native Hawaiians and for other groups, such as native Americans, which may have historic claims to seized territory. It also bears directly on the politics and legal implications of the growing number of state and federal apologies for the nation’s history of slavery and discrimination.

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The state of Maryland is currently considering a slavery-era disclosure law, similar to the one now pending in Massachusetts and previously adopted in several other states.

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John ConyersCongressman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has re-introduced H.R. 40, the “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act,” for the 111th Congress.

This legislation is enthusiastically supported by several DeWolf family members who appear in Traces of the Trade, and Rep. Conyers prominently mentioned our documentary when he introduced the bill. He is also a long-time supporter of our work, having flown to Park City, Utah last year to appear at the film’s world premiere on Martin Luther King Day at the Sundance Film Festival.

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U.N. World Conference Against Racism

On Friday, the State Department announced that the U.S. does not intend to participate in the U.N. conference on racism in April unless there are significant changes to the working draft of the conference document, including toning down references to reparations for slavery.

This development appears to be the inevitable result of the Obama administration’s original position on the conference, coupled with the inability of the U.S. delegation to secure changes to the draft last week in Geneva.

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U.N. World Conference Against RacismPresident Barack Obama has taken a key step to reverse the Bush administration’s long-standing boycott of the United Nations Conference Against Racism.

This move is an early result of the Obama administration’s determination to engage more fully with the U.N. and other multilateral organizations. It is also a sign that the new U.S. administration has changed, but not entirely different, attitudes on such issues as human rights, Israel, and the Muslim world.

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The Associated Press is reporting that the French Conseil d’État (Council of State) has formally acknowledged France’s role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust in World War II.

This is a case which is strongly reminiscent of how the U.S. continues to struggle with its own responsibility for American slavery and the slave trade.

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Massachusetts state representative Byron Rushing has re-introduced his slavery-era disclosure law, “An Act Relative to the History of Slavery in the Commonwealth.”

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