Editorial: An Insult to Immigrants

Operation Wetback is a page in our history which should never be repeated.
Editorial: An Insult to Immigrants

The idea that a “deportation force” in charge of expelling 11 million people from the country is absurd, egregious and barbaric. It is inconceivable that one of the saddest chapters in the history of the United States is invoked in today’s political debate. The proposal to establish a police state to kick out whole families whose members have been working, studying and contributing to the country for decades is repugnant and inhumane.

Millionaire Donald Trump has created a false narrative around immigration in which the U.S. has been invaded by Mexican rapists and criminals who cross the border illegally as part of a plan orchestrated by their country’s government. Under that premise, he states that an impenetrable wall must be erected to prevent them from crossing, and that those who are already here must be expelled and deported en masse. It is a simplistic solution to a mind-boggling diagnosis.

The fantasy ends when the Republican presidential candidate, who currently leads in the race, suggests Operation Wetback ‒ carried out over 50 years ago ‒ as a model. The military operation is remembered as one in which a subsequent investigation by the Legislature compared the boats used to deport people to 18thcentury slave ships, and in which 88 deportees died under the desert sun after being abandoned there. Those are only a few of the stories from that tragic period, not to mention the numbers of U.S. citizens who were deported when they were mistaken for undocumented people, which still happens today.

That is why Trump’s statement saying that his proposal could be carried out in a “humane” manner is a sign of either cynicism or ignorance. There is nothing humane in recommending carrying out military actions ‒ because that is what Operation Wetback was ‒ in neighborhoods aimed at hunting down fathers, mothers and children to later throw them into boats and buses and drop them off on the other side of the border.

The proposal is an insult to the immigrant community. There is a perverse logic at play here, a slippery slope, in singling out immigrants as the culprits for all of the country’s ills, wanting to deport children who grew up here after being brought in by their parents, and planning massive deportation.

Straight-faced discussions on massive deportation and the fact that Trump maintains his popularity reveal a level of hostility within the Republican base that has nothing to do with the values that built this country.