"Operation Wetback" (buckle up) was a brutal sweep in the mid 1950s by the Border Patrol which targeted undocumented workers and dumped them back into unfamiliar parts of Mexico, either by airlift or banana boats. Over a million folks were deported in 1954, which led the Border Patrol to declare the undocumented immigrant problem "solved" -- a assertion that was wildly naive at best. First, a huge portion of the deportations were repeat apprehensions, meaning the same people were being deported multiple times. Also, a lot of the people who got the heave-ho weren't even questioned on their citizenship status. The Border Patrol would see people crossing the border back into Mexico and call it "voluntary departure," as if no American citizen had ever gone to Mexico for any reason.
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Getting caught while undocumented wasn't the worst part of your journey, however. That'd be the actual journey. It takes a special kind of monster to turn a banana boat trip to Mexico into a crime against humanity, but the Border Patrol managed to do so with aplomb. The two-day long journey back to Mexico often saw the deportees crammed into small vessels without any protection from the sea or Sun, or wedged into the cargo holds of ships. In 1956, during one such voyage, a riot erupted in which seven deportees drowned. When Congress investigated, they said the travel conditions resembled those of an "ancient penal ship" -- which is a boat to transport prisoners and not, as it may sound, a boat shaped like a giant penis. Five hundred workers were stuffed in the bowels of a ship with only enough lifeboats to carry 48. Worse yet, there are plenty of reasons to believe that had the ship sunk, the Border Patrol still would have claimed they had successfully deported 452 immigrants -- the fact that they deported them to the bottom of the ocean would have been a technicality that went unmentioned.