The Mexican government officially agreed to reimburse thousands of ex-Braceros now living in the U.S. who maintained the nation's farms and railroads decades ago through a labor agreement between both countries. The workers filled a labor shortage that came about at the start of World War II, as American workers headed to serve the military.
Up to this point, only those living in México have been paid.
U.S.-residing former braceros will have to wait for the end of September to register for payment, the deadline placed on Mexican officials to draw up the reform.
México's announcement was welcoming news for Sotero Cervantes, who migrated to the Central Valley fields from Mexico in 1951 through the program.
"I'm very emotional, because it wasn't easy working as a Bracero, nor has it been easy waiting so many years," Cervantes, an 88-year-old Stockton resident, said. "For us, this is a surprise."
Cervantes is president of the Northern California Association of Ex-Braceros.
For years, Cervantes and other former workers from the Bracero Program of 1942 to 1964 have pleaded with both countries for the money held from paychecks, which was supposed to return to them once they completed the program.
And although México's declaration is a step in the right direction, advocates say concerns still linger.
Cervantes and advocates are disappointed that payments are limited to an estimated $3,500 per person. That's about one third of what each worker is owed, according to Leonel Flores, spokesman for Fresno-based Unión de Ex-Braceros y de Emigrantes (Union of Ex-Braceros and Immigrants).
The payment program is not a reimbursement system based on deducted wages. Instead, it's a supplemental social services program, according to the Diario Oficial, México's official publication.
According to the document published on Sept. 1, the Comité Técnico (Technical Committee) has 30 days to outline specific reform provisions for the plan.
In the meantime, local advocates are working on gathering support for demanding that México establish payment registration sites in the U.S. as part of the reform. The action stems from concerns that remaining ex-braceros now well into old age -- many disabled -- might be required to register for reimbursement in México. Currently, Mexicali, Baja California, is the closest federal registration site.
"Many of them don't have the economic means to travel, nor the health," Magana said.
Still, advocates remain hopeful that ex-Braceros will not have to travel far for what they're owed.