The largest mass deportation in our history was a televised campaign of terrorabril 27, 2023
Originally written by Project Pulso
In 1954, “Operation Wetback” was sold to the U.S. public as a necessary measure to address the “crisis” of unlawful Mexican immigration. In reality, the goal of the operation was to draw the line between who was and who was not considered an American.
While Border Patrol carried out military-style tactics to remove close to one million Mexican immigrants, the press had a powerful role in perpetuating anti-Mexican sentiment. Reporters were embedded into Border Patrol crews and televised the raids, praising the capture of unauthorized immigrants even as some were dying while in custody.
What the press didn’t show was that U.S. born Mexican Americans were being deported as well. Agents would dismiss the legitimacy of draft cards or Social Security cards, insisting on birth certificates, which few people carried around on their person. Mexican Americans who couldn’t produce birth certificates were deported.
While short-lived, Operation Wetback resulted in large-scale human rights violations, upended many families, and has had a long-lasting impact on immigration policy. Leading up to the 2016 presidential election, it was widely reported that former President Donald Trump referenced Operation Wetback, although not by name, when speaking about his immigration policy