The New Latinx 'Repatriation'? Removals, Criminal Justice, and the Efforts to Remove Latinx Peoples from the United States

40 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2019

See all articles by Kevin R. Johnson

Kevin R. Johnson

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: February 22, 2019

Abstract

Several historical episodes have indelibly influenced the sense of belonging of generations of persons of Mexican ancestry - and Latinx generally - in the United States. Two powerful examples aptly illustrate this point. During the hard times of the Great Depression, state and local governments, with the support of the U.S. government, “repatriated” approximately one million persons of Mexican ancestry, including many U.S. citizen children as well as immigrant parents, to Mexico. Similarly, the U.S. government in 1954 in the military-style “Operation Wetback,” directed by a retired general, removed hundreds of thousands of persons of Mexican ancestry, including many U.S. citizen children, from the Southwest. Those discriminatory events have shaped the identities of Latinx people in the United States.

History has condemned these episodes of racial intolerance. Nonetheless, we may be seeing history repeat itself, but with even larger numbers of people injured. Ushering in breath-taking changes in immigration law and enforcement, President Donald J. Trump has boldly moved to reduce immigration to, and the number of immigrants in, the United States. This Article contends that, because so many of the measures directly and indirectly target Latina/os, they represent the equivalent of an attempt at a “new” Mexican repatriation– a concerted effort to remove Latinx people, focusing on Mexicans and Central Americans, from the country. Just as the previous campaigns did, the new efforts further encourage Latinx non-citizens, along with U.S. citizen children, to “self-deport” (i.e., leave the country) or to never come to the United States.

Part I of this Article reviews previous efforts to remove persons of Mexican ancestry from the United States, namely what is known as the “Mexican repatriation” during the Great Depression and “Operation Wetback” in 1954. Part II considers the impacts on Latinx of the contemporary efforts by the Trump administration to remove immigrants from the United States, and to reduce legal immigration. It further draws parallels between the “new” and “old” repatriation campaigns.

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Kevin R., The New Latinx 'Repatriation'? Removals, Criminal Justice, and the Efforts to Remove Latinx Peoples from the United States (February 22, 2019). UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3353508 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3353508

Kevin R. Johnson (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
530 752 0243 (Phone)
530 752 7279 (Fax)

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