The Border, Trumpian Madness and the Clash of Demographics

Some years ago I had an opportunity to interview several students of mine who’d come to the U.S. as part of the Bracero Program in the 1950s.  As such, they were witness to the massive assault on the Latino community called Operation Wetback.  Two aspects of what I learned from them about those years stood out most prominently and have remained with me through intervening years.

One was the scope of terror that Operation Wetback unleashed.  As Jose, one of the students described it, “In Los Angeles, in the center of the city, no one was shopping to buy anything, because of the raids.  They (the INS – the Immigration and Naturalization Service, precursor to ICE) were grabbing people and deporting them.  There were people with and without papers.  There were family members who had their papers, but didn’t have them with them at that moment and they were taken away.”People were swept up while going about their normal routines, on public transportation, even in their neighborhoods solely on the basis of their apparent ethnicity, and deported.  Police were instructed to pick up “vagrants” and turn them in to the INS.  Special buses and trains dispatched deportees to border towns or took them deep into Mexico without regard to their regions of origin. They were loaded on to trucks and dumped off at places along the border with no regard to their survival. Some died of dehydration. Deportees were packed into ships at Port Isabel, Texas and sent to…

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