Ike and those pesky wetbacks

Operation WetbackToday's reader might be taken aback by the name "Operation Wetback" given to President Eisenhower's successful 1954 effort to return illegal aliens to their home country. That was at a time when aliens were actually called aliens, and if they snuck into the United States without border inspection, they were correctly identified as illegal aliens. The slang "wetback" referred to those who snuck across the shallow Rio Grande.

Today illegal aliens are referred to as "undocumented immigrants", thanks to the mainstream media's kowtowing to the mindlessness of political correctness. The mainstream media's self-censorship culminated on April 2, 2013 when the Associated Press expunged the term "illegal immigrant" from its Stylebook. Apparently "illegal alien" was expunged years ago, but they never told anyone.

1954 represented a more cohesive time in America. Ten years after we won WWI, Americans honored their country, the freedom it represented, and the principles upon which it was founded. After the tumultuous war years and the Great Depression which preceded it, we highly valued stability.

At that time, a man could support his family while allowing his wife to stay home - except in agriculture, where foreign workers had been sneaking in to America on a large scale to work at jobs normally taken by Americans. This illegal alien workforce severely undercut the wages of American workers. Herbert Brownell Jr., Eisenhower's attorney general, noted that hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens were crossing every year, and a New York Times article referenced a million illegal aliens per year.1

Brownell observed that America "was faced with a breakdown in law enforcement on a very large scale."

President Isenhower quickly halted the illegal alien traffic. "Operation Wetback" began in 1954, focusing on California and Arizona, then on Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, and Texas. A moderate force of Border Patrol agents apprehended 50,000 illegal aliens in California and Arizona. An additional 488,000 fled to return to their home country.

Within three months, 80,000 illegal aliens had been taken into custody in Texas, and an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 illegal aliens had voluntarily left Texas. Buses and trains were arranged to take many aliens deep within Mexico in order to discourage them from sneaking back into the United States.

It worked.

A small force of 1,075 Border Patrol agents secured American jobs for American workers - who did take the "jobs that Americans would not do" and who were paid fairly for their work. The number of agents involved was less than one-tenth the number of agents in force in 2006.

Not only were those agents able to apprehend and deport a huge number of illegal aliens, but an even greater number of illegal aliens voluntarily packed up and left to return home to their families.

We would do well to remember the immense success of that focused, limited duration operation, conducted at a time in America's history when politicians actually cared about Americans.


CAIRCO Research:

1. How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico, Christian Science Monitor, 2006.

2. Associated Press adopts Orwellian doublespeak - drops 'illegal immigrant'

3. How many illegal aliens reside in the United States?

4. Border security and porous United States - Mexico border fence