Media Slam Trump For Invoking A Deadly, “Unabashedly Racist” Deportation Program As A Model For His Immigration Plans

Media outlets slammed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for invoking President Dwight Eisenhower's “inhumane” and “unabashedly racist” deportation program as a blueprint for his own immigration plans, explaining that the program -- derogatorily called “Operation Wetback” -- resulted in dozens of immigrant deaths and used methods described as “indescribable scenes of human misery and tragedy.”

Donald Trump Praises Eisenhower's Deportation Program In Fox Business Debate

Trump Praises Eisenhower's Deportation Procedures: “You Don't Get Nicer, You Don't Get Friendlier.” During the November 10 Fox Business Republican debate, Donald Trump praised Dwight Eisenhower's deportation program, whichmoved “a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country.” Trumpclaimed, “you don't get nicer, you don't get friendlier” than Eisenhower, while failing to disclose the name of the program, “Operation Wetback”:

DONALD TRUMP: Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower -- good president, great president, people liked him. I like Ike, right? The expressionI like Ike. -- moved a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again, beyond the border, they came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south, they never came back. Dwight Eisenhower. You don't get nicer, you don't get friendlier. They moved a million and a half people out. We have no choice. We have no choice.  [Fox Business, Republican Presidential Candidates Debate11/10/15]

Media Call Out Trump For Praising “Dehumanizing,” “Offensiv[ly] Titled ”Operation Wetback," Which Resulted In Dozens Of Deaths

Mother Jones: “Dozens Of The Operation's Deportees Died.” Mother Jones explained that Trump was referring to “Operation Wetback,” a program in which “dozens of the deportees died” when they were sent to “obscure” locations in Mexico. The article also noted that the architect of the program, then-Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr., “ordered his officers to shoot 'wetbacks' trying to enter America”:

The Eisenhower program Trump was referring to, if not by name, was called “Operation Wetback.” Implemented by President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, the program was frighteningly simple: round up undocumented immigrants and drop them off in Mexico by the busload. The more obscure the location, the better. Dozens of the operation's deportees died. The program was initiated by then-Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr., who ordered his officers to shoot “wetbacks” trying to enter America. Ultimately, it wasn't even as successful as Trump claims: Some researchers consider the 1.5 million-deported figure to be highly exaggerated. [Mother Jones11/10/15]

Slate: The “Brutal” Program Cited By Trump Was “Not Exactly A Proud Moment In American History.” A November 11 Slate article highlighted the fact that the program Trump “loves so much” was “brutal.” Slate elaborated on the methods used during “Operation Wetback,” which included transporting immigrants on cargo boats “that a Congressional investigation likened to an '18th century slave ship'” and "[t]rain-lifts across the borders ... described by observers as 'indescribable scenes of human misery and tragedy." The article concluded that the deportation program was “not exactly a proud moment in American history”:

It is true that Operation Wetback, which Trump has cited before, did indeed deport more than a million illegal immigrants--known pejoratively as wetbacks--by a variety of methods, driving many of them deep into Mexico to prevent them from returning. Many were transported on cargo boats from Port Isabel, Texas, to Veracruz in an operation that a congressional investigation likened to an “18th century slave ship.” A riot broke out on one transport. Seven were drowned after jumping ship on another. Others were simply dumped over the border. In one roundup, 88 people died from heat stroke. Train-lifts across the borders were described by observers as “indescribable scenes of human misery and tragedy.” 

The program was the brainchild of Attorney General Herbert Brownell, who initially wanted to simply “shoot wetbacks crossing into the U.S.” He eventually abandoned the plan because farmers feared the loss of cheap labor. 

It's not exactly a proud moment in American history or a bright spot on Eisenhower's record, however “nice” he may have been. [Slate, 11/11/15]

The Washington Post: The Program “Trump Intends To Follow” Has Been Considered By Many Scholars “A Painful Part Of National History.” The Washington Post explained how “the deportation model that Donald Trump says he intends to follow,” which included migrants being "'brought like cows' into the desert," has been “considered by many immigration scholars as a painful part of national history because of the documented abuse that Mexican migrants suffered during and after their deportations”:

During the summer of 1955, this is where hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were “dumped” after being discovered as migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Unloaded from buses and trucks carrying several times their capacity, the deportees stumbled into the Mexicali streets with few possessions and no way of getting home. 

This was strategic: the more obscure the destination within the Mexican interior, the less opportunities they would have to return to America. But the tactic also proved to be dangerous, as the migrants were left without resources to survive. 

After one such round-up and transfer in July, 88 people died from heat stroke.

At another drop-off point in Nuevo Laredo, the migrants were “brought like cows” into the desert. 

Among the over 25 percent who were transported by boat from Port Isabel, Texas, to the Mexican Gulf Coast, many shared cramped quarters in vessels resembling an “eighteenth century slave ship” and “penal hell ship.” 

These deportation procedures, detailed by historian Mae M. Ngai, were not anomalies. They were the essential framework of Operation Wetback -- a concerted immigration law enforcement effort implemented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 -- and the deportation model that Donald Trump says he intends to follow.


[Operation Wetback] was named after the disparaging term for Mexicans who arrived in America through the Rio Grande, and considered by many immigration scholars as a painful part of national history because of the documented abuse that Mexican migrants suffered during and after their deportations. The tactical push from the U.S. Border Patrol was initiated by then-Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., who told officers to shoot point-blank “wetbacks” attempting to enter America. [The Washington Post11/11/15]

Rolling Stone: Trump Just Endorsed “An Unabashedly Racist Program In Which Nearly A Million Human Beings Were Terrorized By Our Government.” Rolling Stone condemned Trump for “reviv[ing] his execrable anti-immigrant politics” by endorsing an “unabashedly racist program” where nearly a million immigrants were “treated with less dignity than farm animals.” The article pointed out that the “policy that Trump praised” created “an indelible stain on our history”: 

In the Fox Business debate Tuesday, Donald Trump revived his execrable anti-immigrant politics: linking undocumented workers to inner-city drug abuse, promising to build his border wall, and insisting again that millions of immigrants without papers must be expelled from the country.


For the record: The Eisenhower-era policy that Trump praised in the debate was called “Operation Wetback.” It removed nearly a million people from the United States, creating an indelible stain on our history.


The treatment of those rounded up in “Operation Wetback” was ghastly. Many of those apprehended were shipped back to Mexico on cargo boats. A congressional investigation of one vessel, the Mercurio, where a mutiny erupted after seven deportees drowned, likened it to an “18th century slave ship,” or a “penal hell ship,”  according to a history published by Columbia University professor Mae M. Ngai.

In one roundup, hundreds of undocumented “braceros” were abandoned without provision in the blazing desert south of Mexicali. Eighty-eight people died of heat stroke -- a toll that would have been much worse if the Red Cross had not intervened.

So there you have it: Donald Trump's model for deporting undocumented immigrants “warmly and humanely” is an unabashedly racist program in which nearly a million human beings were terrorized by our government and treated with less dignity than farm animals.

This isn't funny. It's verging on fascist. Get woke, America: Donald Trump is dangerous. [Rolling Stone11/10/15]

Newsweek: The Policy Trump Cited As “An Example Of Successful Deportation”  Has Been Called “Dehumanizing” By Historians. Newsweek reported that, although Trump's “suggestion sounded compassionate,” a deportation program like Eisenhower's “could have harsh implications for the undocumented today.” The article noted that “historians have questioned both the efficacy and the ethics of the 1950s policy” that Trump cited “as an example of successful deportation”: 

Trump cited Dwight Eisenhower's immigration policies as an example of successful deportation efforts, even throwing in an “I like Ike.” The suggestion sounded compassionate--Eisenhower, as Trump said, is generally considered a “nice guy”--but could have harsh implications for the undocumented today.

Eisenhower's policies involved packing undocumented Mexican immigrants into trucks and driving them south in what was was known as “Operation Wetback.” Historians have questioned both the efficacy and the ethics of the 1950s policy--some have called it dehumanizing and there are documented cases of the deportations resulting in deaths from heat stroke--but Republican voters at the debate in Milwaukee responded positively to Trump's statements. “If we don't have borders, we won't have a country,” he said. “We don't have a choice.”[Newsweek11/11/15]

The New Republic: Trump “Turned A Horrific Episode In American History Into Kind Of Fairytale.” The New Republic described how Trump “tried to make mass deportation seem almost folksy” turning “a horrific episode in American history into kind of a fairytale”:

The most intense moments in the fourth Republican debate all concerned immigration. The more moderate professional politicians, notably John Kasich and Jeb Bush, were much more forthright than before in saying that Trump's call to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants is inhumane. Conversely, Trump remained adamant, citing Dwight Eisenhower's policy in the 1950s that led to the deportation of 1.3 million Mexicans.

Trump was careful not to give the name of Eisenhower's policy: Operation Wetback. Instead he tried to make mass deportation seem almost folksy, unfolding a narrative of how Eisenhower tried at first to deport the immigrants to a place near the border, but they came back. Then Eisenhower allegedly tried, again, but the immigrants came back. Finally Eisenhower sent the immigrants deep into Mexico and they didn't return. Trump thus turned a horrific episode in American history into kind of fairytale, a mix of the Little Train That Could and the Three Little Pigs. [TheNew Republic11/10/15]

Fusion's Jorge Ramos: Trump “Can't Deport 11 Million” Immigrants “Without Human Rights Violations.” Fusion and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos denounced the flaws in Trump's deportation plan, tweeting that it can't be done in “two years without human rights violations.” He called Eisenhower's “Operation Wetback” -- which Trump cited as a blueprint for his own plan -- a “tragedy, useless and unfair.” 

[, 11/11/15]

NBC Latino Contributor: Trump Brought “Radical Notions” To Mainstream Politics, Invoking Program That "Led To Massive Civil Rights Abuses And Even Deaths." Providing commentary on the debate as part of a Latino panel, NBC Latino contributor Raul Reyes chastised Trump for bringing “radical notions into the mainstream of politics”  noting that it was “astonishing” that Donald Trump would invoke “Operation Wetback”:  

In making his case that the U.S. could and should deport all of our undocumented population, Trump invoked a program developed by President Eisenhower. What he neglected to say was that that this program was known as “Operation Wetback.” Not only was the name of this program offensive, it led to massive civil rights abuses and even deaths among deportees. That Trump has brought such radical notions in the mainstream of politics in 2015 is still astonishing. [, 11/11/15]