Democrats scoff at Donald Trump’s plan to deport millions of illegal immigrants from the United States. They shouldn’t. It’s been done before — under their watch.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, perennial darling of the Left, also presided during the Great Depression over a mass expulsion of as many as 2 million Mexicans, many of them actual U.S. citizens.
During the most recent GOP presidential debate, Trump drew criticism for referencing “Operation Wetback,” the federally mandated deportation program ordered by President Dwight Eisenhower during the 1950s that evicted roughly 1 million people.
Under Roosevelt, however, a possibly larger effort to expel between 500,000 and 2 million Mexicans living in America — known as the Mexican Repatriation — was spearheaded by state and local authorities with the complicity of FDR and his predecessor, Herbert Hoover.
Estimates of the total number of people affected vary widely because of the organic nature of the forced repatriation, which meant there was no central apparatus for record keeping.
It was propelled by growing prejudice nationwide, emanating from fears that Mexican laborers were taking white people’s jobs during an era of mass unemployment in which 1 in 4 workers was out of work.
As many as 60 percent of the individuals repatriated were verifiable U.S. citizens who were targeted because of their skin color.
But it wasn’t just illegal aliens who were rounded up and shipped out. Francisco Balderrama, a professor at California State University, Los Angeles, who authored the book “Decade of Betrayal” on the Mexican repatriation, estimates that as many as 60 percent of the individuals repatriated were verifiable U.S. citizens who were targeted because of their skin color.
The state of California in 2006 issued a formal apology for its role in the Mexican Repatriation.
Though the repatriation was not explicitly called for by Roosevelt or Hoover, both looked the other way as states across the country went rogue. The states created and enforced their own immigration priorities and used tactics such as police raids and employment discrimination to force out individuals they found undesirable.
Even dubbing the event a “repatriation” rather than a “deportation” reinforced the extent to which the states where circumventing federal law, said Balderrama. Because the federal government is responsible for enforcing immigration laws, it is the only entity that can technically deport, while the term repatriation carries a voluntary connotation.
Today, states acting on their own to deport legal or illegal immigrants are quickly reprimanded by the federal government.
Because the feds have refused to enforce laws currently on the books with respect to illegal immigration, states like Alabama and Arizona have tried to take matters into their own hands, only to be met with lawsuits from the Obama administration.
FDR and Hoover similarly decided to arbitrarily enforce the law by letting states deport whomever they reckoned.
Their inaction precipitated one of the largest forced migrations, and forgotten sore spots of American history.
Roosevelt, of course, is also famous for interning Japanese Americans during World War II. Liberals attacking Trump as racist might want to check around their own backyard first.