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The Perennial American Deportation of Mexicans

by Gil Villagran, MSW (gvillagran [at] casa.sjsu.edu)
The official and vigilante deportation of Mexicans from the U.S. began immediately after Mexico's loss of half its territory at the conclusion of that war of conquest, called Manifest Destiny. Such deportations continue to this day and are already playing a critical role in the presidential election of 2008. Learn about some of this history.
The Perennial American Deportation of Mexicans (part one)

by Gil Villagrán, MSW gvillagran [at] casa.sjsu.edu
El Observador, San Jose, July 13, 2007

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is hunting for Mexicans once again, raiding worksites and dayworker centers, neighborhoods, mercados, public schools and human services agencies. The goal is to catch undocumented immigrants for deportation. The method is to raid locations frequented by Mexicans, round up every man, woman, senior and child who fits the stereotype: brown-skinned, low income, Spanish-speakers, frightened, those who run, who cry (often the women and children). At the detention centers being built or expanded, all must prove their right to live in the U.S. The rule is: No papers? Deportation!
But what about my U.S. born children? Take them or leave them! ICE does not care either way. What about my spouse in the hospital? What about the home I am buying? My job? The taxes I paid for 20 or 40 years? My clean record of not even a parking ticket? What about the thousands I paid an immigration lawyer to fix my papers?
These questions, protestations, pleas from people without their residency visa (the famously magical green card) are no doubt tiring to seasoned ICE-men and women who have heard it all, seen it all, and do their duty officiously to deport the “illegals, the wetbacks, the spicks, the border raiders, those who have no right to invade our country, take American jobs, live off welfare, and commit all manner of crimes!”
The deportation of Mexicans is a perennial American event—predictable as hurricanes, floods, and locusts. The roundups of Mexicans, rondadas, began in 1848, at the end of the Mexican-American War, where the Texas Rangers (in a process later perfected by the Ku Klux Klan) offered Mexicanos the choice of leaving their haciendas (many built 300 years earlier) or being hung. Tens of thousands left, hundreds were hung; the city of San Antonio was abandoned. Meantime during the California gold rush, Mexicans, who perfected many gold mining techniques, were outlawed from registering mining claims, had to give up claims already registered, and could only work as miners for “real” Americans in the Sierra Nevada gold fields of California (sic).

In 1915, again the Texas Rangers (not to be confused by President Bush’s former baseball team), now joined by the U.S. Army, “cleaned out the infestation” of refugees of the Mexican Revolution, working in farms and ranches of the Rio Grande Valley, creating an exodus so massive that all roads to the border were congested with fleeing Mexican families.
After the crash of the Stock Market in 1929 (note: caused by bankers in New York, not by Mexican tenant farmers or coal miners in the Southwest), and the consequent Great Depression, President Hoover initiated operation “Mexican Repatriation,” where one to two million residents of Mexican decent where rounded up to be repatriated to their “home country.” An estimated 60%, forced onto railroad boxcars to be taken to the border, were U.S. born.
The next roundup came in 1952, ordered by President Eisenhower who became alarmed by a NY Times report of “The rise of illegal border-crossing Mexican wetbacks.”
His Operation Wetback brought one thousand border patrol agents with state and local police to aggressively sweep entire cities and rural communities to deport more than one million Mexicans, again many U.S. born, and some taken 500 miles into Mexico, to
“ensure they don’t come back, ever!”
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