In Tuesday night’s GOP debate, Donald Trump turned to history to provide a model for his plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. . . . While not calling it by its name, Trump was praising Eisenhower’s ‘Operation Wetback,’ which Trump claims significantly reduced unlawful immigration in the early 1950s. Here’s the problem: It wasn’t ‘successful’ then, by Trump’s standard, and it is not a model for a considered immigration policy now. It was an inhumane program. . . . [It] is just one of many shameful episodes of forceful removal in American history, from the Trail of Tears . . . to the forced relocation and incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. – Sorry, Trump. Ike’s Shameful Program Failed, Sarah Coleman, cnn.com, 11/12/15.
Fact Check: Quite to the contrary, the operation successfully met its goal of sharply reducing illegal immigration—and it did so for a significant length of time. The operation took place in 1954. Six years later when Eisenhower left office, illegal immigration declined by 97 percent, according to official records. It began rising again in the early sixties, but didn’t reach the crisis stage that it had before Eisenhower’s action until the seventies. Thus the nation enjoyed close to two decades with a relatively secure border. Certainly that counts as a success.
Coleman also says the operation is discredited because it was “inhumane.” In many instances deportation by trucks and ships was indeed unpleasant. Yet Coleman admits that the Border Patrol make every effort to warn illegal aliens of the impending roundup and encourage them to go home on their own. And the great majority of those living in the U.S. did just that.
During the operation, Border Patrol officers arrested and deported about 120,000 illegal aliens, while more than a million went home on their own accord. This is the most important lesson to learn from the operation. If illegal aliens see that we mean business with our enforcement, many over time will self-deport.
Effective enforcement does not necessarily mean inhumane enforcement. If we made mistakes during the 1954 roundups we can learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them. Today, we have tools to deal with illegal immigration that didn’t exist in 1954. One is the law against hiring illegal aliens and the E-Verify system that helps employers determine whether people they hire are authorized to work in the U.S. Making E-Verify system mandatory for all employers would help deny employment to illegal aliens and encourage many to go home on their own. Nothing particularly harsh about that.
Of course, there are some who seem to think that any enforcement of our immigration laws at all is “inhumane.” If that’s what they really believe, it follows that they don’t have much concern about the pain and losses that illegal immigration inflicts on their fellow Americans. And this lack of concern certainly says something about their patriotism.
A gross flaw in Coleman’s statement is equating law enforcement against illegal immigration with forced Trail of Tears expulsion of American Indians with a legitimate claim on their land and the forced relocation of Japanese-American citizens. Illegal aliens have no claim on America, and they do not have the rights of citizens because they are not citizens. Like so many in the today, Coleman doesn’t seem to grasp what the concept of citizenship means.