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There are all kinds of numbers surrounding Operation Wetback. My understanding is the vast majority left voluntarily. Is there any official number on the amount of illegal aliens that were actually removed, with force, from America?

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I've removed some of the imprecise emotional terms from this question, in favor of more precise terms. It is a lot harder to get good objective answers when you don't ask your question in an objective way. –  T.E.D. Mar 25 '13 at 14:54
    
that was just the 1st year, it was a 10 year program that had 13 million deported. –  user3933 Mar 5 at 6:55

1 Answer 1

Texas State Historical Association

"It is difficult to estimate the number of illegal aliens forced to leave by the operation. The INS claimed as many as 1,300,000, though the number officially apprehended did not come anywhere near this total. The INS estimate rested on the claim that most aliens, fearing apprehension by the government, had voluntarily repatriated themselves before and during the operation. The San Antonio district, which included all of Texas outside of El Paso and the Trans-Pecos, had officially apprehended slightly more than 80,000 aliens, and local INS officials claimed that an additional 500,000 to 700,000 had fled to Mexico before the campaign began. Many commentators have considered these figures to be exaggerated."

Western and historical Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 4, Winter, 2006. p443. Hopefully this is fair use.

Commissioner Swing declared the summer campaign a succes when they reported that 1,089,583 persons had been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol during FY 1954. Yet, the over one million deportations recorded for 1954 cannot be attributed to that summer's program because FY 1954 closed on 30 June 1954, just two weeks after the summer's campaign. The large number of apprehensions recorded for FY 1954, thefefore, were made between 1 July 1953 and 30 June 1954. Apprehensions for FY 1955, which included the largest portion of the summer of 1954 campaign, registered only 246,096 apprehensions. Fewer apprehensions had not been made since 1948, making the law enforcement accompliments of the summer of 1954 less than they were potrayed to be. Understanding that mass deportations did not accompany the campaign of the summer of 1954, however, does not render the summer of 1954 meaningless. Rather, instead of being a major law enforcement campaign, the summer of 1954 can better be understood as a massive publicity campaign for what had happened the year before and a public claiming of migration control by the U.S. government despite the critical contributions and participation of the Mexican Government.

So we can see the massive claims made by the authorities are a bit shaky. We can say the number of undocumented migrants caught in the financial year 1955 is 246,096, which includes most of those caught during wetback but includes a lot of other apprehensions as well. It's probably best to say that, conservatively, 80,000 were apprehended, based on the San Antonio district figures. This figure is inline with what other news outlets have claimed, like the Christian Science Monitor

Then on June 17, 1954, what was called "Operation Wetback" began. Because political resistance was lower in California and Arizona, the roundup of aliens began there. Some 750 agents swept northward through agricultural areas with a goal of 1,000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Another 488,000, fearing arrest, had fled the country. [...] By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 illegals had left the Lone Star State voluntarily.

As far as the claims of 500,000 to 700,000 had leaving of their own accord. These are didactic statements by the INS possibly massaged to justify this operation. Use them if you make it clear they official estimates and not necessarily well evidenced or true.

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So the whole "Operation Wetback" resulted in 246,096 deportations and a publicity campaign whereby another 750,000 decided to leave under thread of future deportation? –  Evan Carroll Mar 24 '13 at 20:27
    
No. I'll edit for clarity. –  Nathan Cooper Mar 24 '13 at 20:33
    
Christian Science Monitor link isn't working for me. –  Nathan Cooper Mar 24 '13 at 21:11
    
Sorry @Nathan Cooper it won't let me change it, csmonitor.com/2006/0706/p09s01-coop.html –  Evan Carroll Mar 24 '13 at 23:28

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