Did The ‘Operation Wetback’ Immigration Plan Work Like Trump Said?

With immigration as a hot topic for presidential hopefuls, candidate Donald Trump brought up a previous immigration plan by President Eisenhower.

By Emily DonahueNovember 11, 2015 10:30 am|

Did you catch the debate last night?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump did try to revamp the rhetoric around his immigration plan, specifically about mass deportations. Last night, Trump suggested opponents of his plan shouldn’t hate on him so much – after all, as he put it, who didn’t like Ike?

“The expression ‘I like Ike’ moved a million-and-a-half illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border, they came back – didn’t like it, moved them way south, they never came back,” Trump said in the debate. “Dwight Eisenhower – you don’t get nicer, you don’t get friendlier.”

The program established by President Eisenhower in 1954 was called “Operation Wetback,” but what exactly did it do?

Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, professor at the Center For Mexican American Studies at UT-Austin, talks to the Standard about the immigration plan.

“Eisenhower took, not necessarily executive action, but he put into place a program that militarized or created a more military environment for the INS [US Immigration and Naturalization Service] to go after undocumented immigrants, illegal immigrants and send them back to Mexico.”

DeFrancesco Soto says that frustration from labor unions and job-seeking citizens coming back from the Vietnam war put pressure on Congress at the time to take action, which prompted Eisenhower to create the program.

Listen to the full interview in the player above.