Citizens Facing Deportation Isn't New. Here's What Happened When the U.S. Removed Mexican-Americans in the 1930sBreaking News
tags: deportation, Mexican Repatriation
As the Trump Administration continues its focus on the border, immigrants living in the U.S. have spent months on edge, worried about planned raids and an increased focus on deportation. And in some cases, even being a U.S. citizen has not proved to be a reason to feel safe.
In a case that garnered national attention — and questioning last week during a House Judiciary Committee hearing that was supposed to be about the separation of families — U.S. citizen Francisco Erwin Galicia was released from immigration detention on July 23 after more than 20 days in custody at the South Texas Detention Facility. In March of this year, a 9-year-old U.S. citizenwas detained at a Southern California checkpoint for more than 30 hours after crossing the border from Tijuana while authorities verified her identity. And in April 2018, Peter Sean Brown, also a U.S. citizen, faced deportation to Jamaica after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confused him for someone with the same name. Brown spent just over three weeks in a Florida county jail before being released, according to a lawsuit.
A total of 834 U.S. citizens were issued ICE detainers — which allow local law enforcement to detain people on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — between fiscal years 2008 and 2012, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research organization at Syracuse University. A detainer is how Brown was held in county jail despite evidence that he was born in the U.S.
In all three of these recent headline-making cases, those with their citizenship status questioned were able to return home. But this isn’t the first time U.S. citizens have faced the threat of deportation — and its reality. It is estimated that about 2 million people, 60% of whom were American citizens of Mexican descent, were removed to Mexico as part of a Depression-era effort known as repatriation, according to the state of California, though the exact number is unknown and estimates range.
“We’re really talking about an over-100-year history of expulsion of people,” says Francisco Balderrama, a co-author with Raymond Rodríguez of Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s. “Frankly, I think if the American public, particularly politicians, understood this, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in right now with this happening again.”
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