(Originally posted 1/12/17 on Read With The Gringa)
The gringa wants to conclude her studies on the history of U.S. immigration by examining a particular policy that was enacted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration in 1954. The incoming Trump administration has threatened a revival of a deportation policy that has already proven disastrous. Again, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, yet expecting different results, is the incoming group of politicians all insane? Is a madman about to take the helm of U.S. government? Will the lunatics be running the asylum in less than two weeks? Let’s take a look at Operation Wetback and see if parallels of this policy should be supported or resisted if Trump attempts to resurrect this dead beast.
After World War I, the nation was hurting for cheap labor, particularly in agriculture. They hoped to fill this void by exploiting imported labor groups from Mexico. As non-citizens, such groups could successfully be exploited because they would not have political representation, other than any interest that their country of origin might have.
However, we learned through the Bracero Program of 1942, that Mexico’s government was also exploiting its own people who participated. Legal Bracero’s were subject to withholdings from their earnings being kept by the U.S. and Mexico to pay for certain provisions of their Bracero work-visas. Provisions that should have provided benefits but both governments simply kept the money. This resulted in the U.S. not seeing the numbers needed of voluntary migrant workers participating.The gringa doesn’t blame Mexicans for rejecting participation in the program.
But industry will always find a way to meet its own need. Workers who need to make a buck will always find a way around government over-reach into their pocket. The result was that illegal immigration increased and farmers were only too happy to employ them. And, for a time, the US looked the other way while it was convenient and the citizens were satisfied with cheap produce abundantly supplied to their local markets.
But, in the early 1950’s Americans were tiring of being so tolerant to illegal immigrants who were picking those beans they enjoyed with dinner. Eisenhower satisfied their indignation with Operation Wetback. Deportation records indicate that more than one million immigrants were removed from the country. Now, considering that a racial slur was used in an official government record entitled deportation legislation, there is no doubt in the gringa’s mind that this piece of work was racially motivated and wholly approved by a racist white majority population. For shame, America.
But that’s how elitist white majority capitalism works. Exploit without a conscience those with melanin as cheap labor. Then, when your done with them, demonize them and kick them out, even if it means destroying their lives and families.
Once the announcement was made June 9, 1954, that this was the official policy of the U.S., aggressive raids and deportation forces focused their attention on Arizona and California. Law enforcement used methods like roadblocks and checkpoints. Eventually these methods spilled over into Texas as well. Sweeps even reached as far as the states of Washington, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri. Within a couple of months the operation wound down and then, once funding ran out, the government proudly announced that the “problem no longer existed”. Yeah, right. Government officials just didn’t want to admit that no matter how many people they deport, there is really no way to secure a border like the US southern border. It is extensive, porous, and rugged. Trump thinks a wall will work? He must have never heard about the ingenuity of drug smuggling tunnels.
Now, to an American Nationalist, Operation Wetback sounds like a prime example of how to deal with undocumented aliens that are in the country. Well, the gringa says, “Not so fast.” Before you accept your initial knee-jerk reaction, get down to the nitty-gritty, the nuts and bolts, the actual “what exactly happens” kind of stuff.
Currently, there are well over 12 million people in the US with undocumented status. Many of these people enjoy this status through no fault of their own. How many unscrupulous immigration attorneys do you think have taken advantage of vulnerable immigrants, taking their money and never doing a thing to manage their legal paperwork properly? Yeah, that’s a problem. That’s a problem with AMERICAN criminals, not immigrant criminals. Then you have people who have fled their native countries in terror, arrived here undocumented and have the right to apply for refugee status or asylum. In their desperation to get out alive during dangerous internal strife, there is simply no time to secure documents. Proper channels to do such a thing may not even exist. Even if they did, the very people being victimized by their government and needing to escape are also the last people such a government would grant travel documents to. Those are the kind of people our country EXPECTS to arrive undocumented. And how many immigrants do you think have been committed to maintaining a legal status only to fall victim to overcrowded immigration courts who have let their case fall through the cracks? The reality is that such things happen. Sometimes, it’s the US that is to blame.
For all of these reasons, undocumented immigrants have the right of due process as every other citizen and legal immigrant. And if you think we should just forego due process, then you are saying that we should just do away with the foundations of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. The rights of undocumented immigrants are all wrapped up in the very logic and reason behind how every human being enjoys inalienable and civil rights in the US. Are you willing to put your own liberty, freedom and security at risk simply because you have a problem with immigrants?
What kind of country do you really want to live in? Do you really want to live in a country where you have your drive to work interrupted by roadblocks, searches of your car and demands to see your documents? So, you say, “No big deal if you are a citizen.” Once again, the gringa says, “Not so fast.” There’s this little thing called the Civil Rights Act. Think about how roadblocks and ID demands could infringe upon the equal protection of minorities. Take this scenario for example:
The gringa and her caveman are driving separate cars home after picking one up at the repair shop. The gringa reaches the roadblock only to realize that she forgot her ID at home. The cop looks at her white skin, hears her flawless English, albeit with a Texas twang, and waves her on through. Right behind her is the caveman, a US citizen for more than a quarter of a century. He realizes his wallet is in his wife’s handbag because he always wears pocket-less soccer shorts and refuses to carry a man-purse. The cop sees his brown skin and hears that Peruvian accent and then orders him to get out of the vehicle. The car is impounded and the caveman heads downtown, detained for further questioning.
If the caveman is lucky, the gringa will bring his ID and clear everything up. But they are still out of pocket for paying to get the car out of impound. Not to mention the indignity and hassle. But what if the gringa had been out of town? Would it be possible that injustice could occur and the caveman could find himself shipped off to Peru? Is it possible that many like him, US naturalized citizens or legal immigrants, could lose everything if such policies were enacted? The evidence is that many already have.
When Eisenhower started a racist dragnet across the country, caught in that web were many who had every right to be in this country. Yet they were deported. So, in addition to hundreds of unnecessary deaths by heat exhaustion and drowning, the lives of US citizens were destroyed simply because of the color of their skin, the ethnic quality of their name, and, perhaps, the existence of an accent.
If the operation had truly been a success, rather than funds peter out, Congress would have voted for another round. Citizens would have expected enforcement to continue. Instead, US government spin doctors churned out the propaganda that it was such a resounding success there was no more need for deportation round-ups. And it seems that those spin doctors are hard at work for the future Trump administration. Because people who are afraid of melanin can’t admit they are fraidy-cats and bigots can’t admit that bigoted actions are a failure.
So, if you are an advocate for inhumane treatment of fellow humans, ripping apart families, infringing upon the Civil Rights of all citizens and guests to this country, and destroying the lives of some of your fellow Americans, then I am sure that you will be just fine with Trump’s future plans. As long as you are not personally affected, you could care less about what might happen to those “damn furriners”. The gringa would like to ask such people, “You claim, with great pride, to be a citizen of the ‘home of the brave, right? Then why are you so afraid of people with melanin and speak with an accent? Why not grow a pair and make your country proud. Be brave. There are better solutions to this very complicated immigration problem our nation has.”
Image Credit: felicitysmoak.info.tm