Trump continues to stir up controversy while he sits atop the polls and his immigration plan continues to draw much attention. His immigration plan actually isn’t an immigration plan at all but more like a Mass Deportation plan, which he proudly likes to compare to what he believes was a successful similar program known as “Operation Wetback” some 60 plus years ago. “Operation Wetback” was an aggressive and unprecedented sweep by U.S Border Patrol agents in the mid 1950’s that detained Mexican laborers from fields and ranches in targeted raids, sent them to detention centers along the border, and eventually sent many of them back to Mexico by airlift or cargo boats.
Many people, especially academics, would agree that the 1954 operation was a rather shameful and un-American piece of American history. Donald Trump feels it was a successful chapter in American History and he would like to replicate it on a mass scale as President. During a Fox business debate in November, Mr. Trump said the key to the Eisenhower administration’s success was moving undocumented immigrants “way south” within Mexico to discourage them from returning. One thing Trump fails to consider is that 2016 looks a lot different then 1954. If hundreds of thousands of immigrants can make their way to the USA from places like Central America as they did in the last few years, surely the distance within Mexico’s interior would make little impact on whether the deportations would be successful, assuming they would even be feasible in the first place.
Immigration officials estimate that “Operation Wetback” removed about a million people from the country, but Trump believes it would be feasible from both a logistics and cost standpoint to use the same approach to remove the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the USA. Even other conservative GOP Presidential candidates find Trump’s plan lacking in logic. Ted Cruz said in a recent “State of the Union” interview that the U.S should catch those who came here illegally through normal law enforcement practices, not through round-ups. “No, I don’t intend to send jackboots to knock on your door and every door in America, ” Cruz said. “That’s not how we enforce the law for any crime.”
Many also disagree with the Border Patrol estimates about how many deportations there actually were in 1954. UCLA historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez is the author of “Migra! A history of the U.S. Border Patrol”, and she believes the 1million number claimed by the Border Patrol is vastly overstated, as many people were apprehended multiple times but never actually left, while others were merely spotted crossing the border back into Mexico and counted as “Voluntary departures” by Border Patrol agents. Doris Meissner, who was Commissioner of the U.S immigration and Naturalization Service between 1993 and 2000, noted that deportations reached their highest point in history, with roughly 438,000, under President Obama in 2013. Mr. Meissner questioned how the system could handle going from 438,000 deportations with an already stretched thin budget to the 11 million Trump’s plan calls for.
Aside from the lack of feasibility is the issue of the undocumented immigrants Human Rights being violated. An August 1956 New York Times article accounts of an incident in 1956 after some 500 Mexican nationals were crammed aboard a boat equipped to hold only 48 people. Seven individuals drowned to death and a riot ensued on the vessel called the Mercurio. Deporting immigrants via Airplane to their home country is incredibly expensive, and when you have cost constraints and try to deport these individuals by the cheapest possible means, it becomes a dangerous endeavor. Lastly, the economic impact of a sudden ejection of 11 million workers would certainly be felt across the nation. Many businesses would in fact be forced to close down with the loss of these workers, and this could cause Americans to lose their jobs.