Operation Wetback, Part Dos

“What do we do about illegal aliens already here?”

“We can’t just deport them all.”

Can’t we?

For those who graduated from college in the last two decades and are consequently unaware, in 1941 the United States entered World War II, fighting largely in the Europe theater. Commodities of all kinds – crops, metals, cloth, etc.  – were diverted to aid in the war effort. So, too, was labor. So, in 1942, the federal government partnered with the Mexican government and created the Bracero Program (Spanish for manual labor), which allowed for mostly agriculture workers from Mexico to legally work on farms in the United States. Between 1942 and 1964 (correct me if I’m wrong, non-college graduates: Didn’t WWII end in 1945?), nearly five million Mexican (mostly) men worked inside our borders.

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About in the middle of this era, a government operation took place that precious few, Republican or Democrat, speak of today. It was called Operation Wetback.

Don’t get all “SJW” on me. I didn’t come up with the name. While the word first appeared in the 1920s, even the late labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez used it himself.

It was an effective program.

But in the 1950s, the term “wetbacks” was used by friends and foes of those Mexican nationals photographed just before being herded onto a Border Patrol airplane bound for Brownsville, Texas. There they were to be put on a ship headed to Veracruz, Mexico.

Their itinerary was part of what the U.S. Justice Department announced as a major “drive to return ‘wetbacks’ to Mexico.” Chicago was the focal point of what the Feds called the “wetback airlift.” By the end of 1954, under the direction of Walter Sahli, district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, it flew about “three planeloads a week of Mexican workers who entered this country illegally” out of Midway Airport, according to a Tribune article.

As many as 1.3 million immigrants would be rounded up in the United States under the program launched by President Dwight Eisenhower. They were loaded onto trains, buses and planes and deposited deep in Mexico’s interior to prevent them from returning.

Another event occurred at the same time as Operation Wetback: Self deportation. Knowing how seriously the US government was taking this initiative, Mexican workers went home. In fact, the oft-touted 1.3 million is contested in part because of the fact that so many left on their own accord.

“My God,” you say. “That’s horrible. How could we have rounded up so many people and shipped them home?”

It wasn’t difficult. When you see a problem that adversely affects your country and countrymen, the externalities of which are far reaching and long lasting, you do something about it. A funny thing happens once you find the will: The way tends to make itself clear.

And if you think 1.3 million deportations is bad, would it surprise you to know Barack Obama deported around 2.7 million. My God, what a xenophobe.

If in the 1950s we thought it important to remove over a million foreign nationals from our lands for various reasons, what does it say about our society today when it’s estimated that there are now over 20 million here illegally? When and why did this become acceptable?

Cut off the border from all but commerce. No more asylum. No more welfare. No more free healthcare. If we truly need foreign labor, which is questionable, let the market decide what it needs. Let the government’s role in this be limited to security only. We have the means – bus, rail, air, or boat. There would be plenty of people lining up to provide deportation services at every level and degree.

We don’t lack the resources. We lack the will.

God help us.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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