Some history you may not know about
Operation Wetback was a 1954 project of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to remove about 1.2 million illegal immigrants from the southwestern United States, with a focus on Mexican nationals.
Burgeoning numbers of illegal aliens prompted President Dwight D. Eisenhower to appoint his longtime friend, General Joseph Swing, as INS Commissioner. According to Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr., Eisenhower had a sense of urgency about illegal immigration immediately upon taking office. In a letter to Sen. William Fulbright, Eisenhower quoted a report in The New York Times that said: "The rise in illegal border-crossing by Mexican 'wetbacks' to a current rate of more than 1,000,000 cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the Federal Government."
Eisenhower became increasingly concerned that profits from illegal labor led to corruption. An on-and-off guest-worker program for Mexicans was operating at the time, and farmers and ranchers in the Southwest were becoming dependent on additional low-cost labor. The operation was modeled after the deportation program that invited American citizens of Mexican ancestry to go back to Mexico during the Great Depression because of the bad economy north of the border. See Mexican Repatriation.
The operation began in California and Arizona and coordinated 1,075 Border Patrol agents along with state and local police agencies to mount an aggressive crackdown, going as far as police sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops and ID checks of "Mexican-looking" people in a region with many Native Americans and native Hispanics. Some 750 agents targeted agricultural areas with a goal of 1000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Around 488,000 people fled the country for fear of being apprehended. By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and the INS estimates that 500,000-700,000 illegals had left Texas voluntarily. To discourage re-entry, buses and trains took many illegals deep within Mexico before being set free. Tens of thousands more were put aboard two hired ships, the Emancipation and the Mercurio. The ships ferried the aliens from Port Isabel, Texas, to Veracruz, Mexico, more than 500 miles (900 kilometers) south.
Operation Wetback deported approximately 80,000 Mexican nationals in the space of almost a year, although local INS officials claimed that an additional 500,000-700,000 had fled to Mexico before the campaign began. The INS estimates rested on the claim that most undocumented people, fearing apprehension by the government, had voluntarily repatriated themselves before and during the operation.
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