Immigration from Mexico to the US is not new. Workers have been deciding to immigrate to the US, legally or not, for over a century. However, legal channels for immigration have often not been forthcoming. In the early twentieth century the Mexican government attempted to stop migration northward so that local agribusiness interest could freely exploit Mexican labor. The US did institute a guest worker program known as the Bracero Program, but it proved to be insufficient. The demand from Mexico for job, and the demand from American agribusiness for cheap labor, proved to be more than the legal channels would allow.
Later in the 1950s American border officials enforced a sweeping, large-scale crackdown known as (and this was the program’s official name) Operation Wetback. That program dealt with large groups of migrants all at once and ultimately deported over a million people from the United States. However, errors and human rights abuses were unavoidable, and the “solution” to the problem of illegal immigration proved to be worse than the perceived problem that it sought to fix.
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