Trump Liked Ike’s ‘Operation Wetback’

Art by Edel Rodriguez


Donald Trump’s xenophobic rants are as predictable as the weather in Death Valley, so his response to Maria Bartiromo’s immigration question at Tuesday’s GOP debate was no surprise.

Bartiromo asked about the Fifth Circuit ruling [PDF link] that “dealt a blow to the Obama administration’s plan to prevent the deportation of five million people.”

“I was so happy yesterday when I saw that decision come down. That was an unbelievable decision,” Trump said. “And it was a 2-1 decision. And it was a terrific thing that happened.”

“Terrific thing,” for sure. Trump wants to deport 12 million adults and children. And do it like Eisenhower did––Ike, he said, “moved them way south, they never came back.”

Regardless of where “they” came from, move “them” way south. Just like Ike’s “Operation Wetback.”

As I wrote when Obama’s deferred deportation order was blocked by a federal judge in Texas, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is as predictable as Donald Trump.

If Obama decides to appeal, he will have to do so in the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, one of the most conservative (and whitest) appellate benches in the nation. Twelve of the 15 active judges on the court were appointed by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Frustrated by the failure of the Congress to pass any immigration reform, because nothing but Trump’s ethnic-cleansing plan will win over Tea Party reactionaries in the House, Obama acted on his own. His order deferred the deportation of undocumented parents of children born in the United States (who are U.S. citizens). And it shielded from deportation young people who arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday, have lived here since 2010, and have graduated from high school or obtained a GED diploma.

In response, Texas Governor Greg Abbott turned to the judge he knew would overturn the president’s executive order.

Put District Judge Andrew S. Hanen on the short list of President Trump’s Supreme Court prospects.

Hanen sits on the federal bench in McAllen, Texas. Lawyers who practice before him call him Judge Double Bush; his nomination by the first President Bush didn’t make it through the Senate, so George W. Bush re-nominated him and he was confirmed.

Hanen is from Houston, a six-hour drive from McAllen, which is 15 miles from the Rio Grande. It’s worth noting that he replaced Judge Filemon Vela Sr., a Lower Rio Grande Valley native whose family traces its history to mid-1700 Spanish land grants.

Judge Hanen routinely and aggressively rules against undocumented residents. For example, before ruling on Obama’s executive order he had written a 50-page opinion ripping into undocumented immigrants––in a lawsuit that was not specifically about undocumented immigrants. In another opinion, he accused the Department of Homeland Security, which was not involved in the case he was deciding, of human trafficking––because it had reunited a 10-year-old Salvadoran girl (who had been smuggled across the border) with her mother, who was living in Virginia.

The optics of the case are as bad as Trump’s overheated nativist rhetoric. Abbott was joined by 24 governors and state attorneys general in the lawsuit he filed in Hanen’s court. All of Abbott’s co-plaintiffs are white. All are Republican. The judge is white and a Republican. McAllen is 84.6 Hispanic. And the unnamed defendant, President Obama, is black.

Judicial appointments weren’t mentioned in last night’s debate. In fact appointments to the federal bench haven’t come up in any of the GOP debates.

Time to start paying attention to the federal bench beneath the Supreme Court––and to who will be nominating judges after January 20, 2017.

It was three judges appointed by Republican presidents who killed Obama’s executive order on immigration. Hanen’s ruling was upheld by Judge Jerry Smith, a Reagan appointee; and Judge Jennifer Elrod, a George W. Bush appointee. Senior Judge Carolyn Dineen King, appointed to the Fifth Circuit by Jimmy Carter, wrote a 53-page dissent.

So five million Mexicans and Central Americans will continue to go to work or school every day fearing deportation. They can mow our lawns, cook our food, clean our houses, and harvest our crops. But they can’t be provided temporary legal status. (Bumper sticker: If You Eat, You Are Supporting Illegal Aliens!)

You won’t find that in the majority opinion, but that’s what three Republican judges decided.


2 responses to “Trump Liked Ike’s ‘Operation Wetback’

  1. Thank you Lou for this article. My mom’s family was affected by President Ike’s plan. My grandfather believed Mexico’s propaganda and collusion with the U.S. promising “free lands” to repatriated Mexicans. My Grandfather was foolish enough to believe Mexico’s lies. They were asked to turn in their papers. It took my grandma (now without her husband) 7 years to work her way back to Pharr, Texas where her parents had lived well before the turn of the 19th century. My grandma’s brothers and sons served honorably in the the Marines and Airforce during WWII and Korea, her youngest brother having lost his life while serving in WWII. AS a result of the deportation, five of my Mother’s siblings born in Mexico were raised in the US, while the older 5 were born in the US were Raised in Mexico. That half included my Mother. Having no other choice for survival, my grandma and her 10 children for many years joined the migrant stream picking crops in Michigan, Indiana and other states. At first the had to travel in trucks with other families but after the first year my grandma bought their own truck. The next year upon their return from working up north, she bought two “solares” in Pharr, the next year, had a four-room house built (with an “escusado” in the back. The next year, she added rooms to the house gaining the prestige of being the only family in the neighborhood to have an indoor toilet. . . And so began and continued my Mom’s family’s journey toward achieving the “American Dream”. My Grandma, needless to say, was a great woman as well as astute administrator of finances, something she probably learned from her father who at one time had been an important political figure and leader of his community during the nineteenth century. My dear, sweet “abuelita” was born in 1901 and died in 1970 after two heart attacks suffered in Chicago while visiting five of her children there carving their own trail through to their own version of the “American Dream” working in various factories. My parents also made their way to Chicago until in the seventh year when their oldest daughter of five died after a tonscelectomy at the hands of the only Spanish-speaking doctor they could find, a Cuban. Though the doctors at Cook County Hospital tried to save her, she basically bled to death. So that is how we made our way back to our homeland where my mother could be close to our abuelita as She recovered her mental and emotional state. My parents had paid the highest price possible in our own search. A year after returning to Pharr, we became the second family to own the prestige of an indoor toilet.

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