In 1918 and 1919, the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company was investigated by the US Bureau of Immigration, the US Department of Labor, and Idaho’s Labor Commission for the living conditions of Mexican laborers under its employ. Ultimately, the sugar corporation was exonerated of any wrongdoing even though it had executed contracts with the workers stipulating the company would cover their necessities in the winter. Instead, the Mexican families were blamed for ingratitude and exaggerating their conditions. The experiences of these workers in Blackfoot, Idaho were complicated by the fact that the company that recruited them—and let them live in deplorable conditions—was a corporation run by high officials in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a religion that also had a significant stock interest in Utah-Idaho Sugar as well as a significant population of members in Blackfoot. Examining this episode in the history of the Intermountain West highlights the racism and difficulties that migrant workers faced in the late 1910s. It also explores a time when the federal government relaxed immigration restrictions and requirements so corporations and farmers could utilize their labor, an important precursor to the bracero program that would follow during World War II.

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