El Paso became the hub of massive recruitment efforts of Mexican workers as American railway companies found themselves short on labor. Asian immigrants had done most of the work on the first transcontinental railroad, but the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 stopped immigration from China.
U.S. railroad companies, which had previously conducted much work in Mexico, supported the immigration. Southern Pacific, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroads hired the bulk of Mexicans, offering them six-month contracts to lay track in California.
One estimate shows 16,000 Mexicans were working on the railroad in the West by 1908; the mass of Mexicans hired for railroad work hit its zenith between 1910 and 1912.
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