The Intercultural Throughline Title

Operation Wetback, Summer 1954

Operation Wetback was an immigration law enforcement initiative created by Joseph Swing, the Director of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), in cooperation with the Mexican government. The program was implemented in May 1954 by U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell and utilized special tactics to deal with illegal border crossings into the United States by Mexican nationals. The program became a contentious issue in Mexico–United States relations, even though it originated from a request by the Mexican government to stop the illegal entry of Mexican laborers into the United States. Legal entry of Mexican workers for employment was at the time controlled by the Bracero program, established during World War II by an agreement between the U.S. and Mexican governments. Operation Wetback was primarily a response to pressure from a broad coalition of farmers and business interests concerned with the effects of Mexican immigrants living in the United States without legal permission. Upon implementation, Operation Wetback gave rise to arrests and deportations by the U.S. Border Patrol.

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