April 5, 2006


U.S. urged to apologize for 1930s deportations (Wendy Koch, 4/05/06, USA TODAY)

His father and oldest sister were farming sugar beets in the fields of Hamilton, Mont., and his mother was cooking tortillas when 6-year-old Ignacio Piña saw plainclothes authorities burst into his home.

"They came in with guns and told us to get out," recalls Piña, 81, a retired railroad worker in Bakersfield, Calif., of the 1931 raid. "They didn't let us take anything," not even a trunk that held birth certificates proving that he and his five siblings were U.S.-born citizens.

The family was thrown into a jail for 10 days before being sent by train to Mexico. Piña says he spent 16 years of "pure hell" there before acquiring papers of his Utah birth and returning to the USA.

The deportation of Piña's family tells an almost-forgotten story of a 1930s anti-immigrant campaign. Tens of thousands, and possibly more than 400,000, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were pressured — through raids and job denials — to leave the USA during the Depression, according to a USA TODAY review of documents and interviews with historians and deportees. Many, mostly children, were U.S. citizens.

Insecurity always underlies these hysterias.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 5, 2006 8:26 AM

25% unemployment within that era.

Posted by: Genecis at April 5, 2006 9:37 AM

Those deportations would be legal today, too.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 5, 2006 9:55 AM

In the hope that Robert will contribute to this discussion as well, I'll start the ball rolling on a REAL discussion.

Robert referred in another thread to abuses by lower level bureaucrats that created problems with establishing the citizenship of his sister, and this post is of a piece with it: It's a reminder that wholesale roundups are as bad an idea as stereotyping (orrin's chief failing in these comments). Its to be expected that tossing out a net will catch both the good and the bad, so raising questions about the competence of those charged with sitting down and sorting through the good and bad fish is pertinent. Complicating the issue is that, while illegals rounded up in this manner have few legal rights, citizens have the right to countersue the government for abuses like this. We have a lot of hispanic citizens who became such from prior amnesties (and yes, those prior amnesties didn't work, because we're debating the situation AGAIN, so giving one now won't work as well), and I don't want them tossed out by accident, like what happened here.

However, one must keep in mind that the Depression was a very nasty time in the life of our nation: don't forget the Oakies, who were our own fellow citizens, and were ALSO treated badly when they tried to exercise the right to move from one state to another.

One of the principles of Roman law was the admission that law enforcement was not perfect. If it's not perfect, then the best we can do is make it fail safe, which is why we have restrictions that make it more likely that the guilty go free to better ensure that the innocent are not victims. US Citizenship is such a valuable and wonderful thing, that I shudder to think that a US Citizen was mistakenly expelled and rendered unable to prove it. At the same time, I shudder to think of the issues with Identity cards that would be necessary to prove citizenship.

Given orrin's track record, it pays to ask whether the label "Hysteria" is ALWAYS appropriately applied: it can be used properly, as in this case, or improperly, when it comes to homeland security.

Posted by: Ptah at April 5, 2006 10:19 AM

Ptah, I've always shuddered in the past at the notion of ID cards for Americans and still have grave reservations, but tossing the idea around lately, I believe they are necessary only because of the proliferation and ease of identify theft and the great value, as you correctly state, of American citizenship or legal alien status.

There must be an easy and as fool-proof-as-possible way to identify who We, the People are.

Posted by: erp at April 5, 2006 10:38 AM


No, the notion that anti-immigration is a security issue is always hysterical

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 10:59 AM

Sorry, but denying that people can have legitimate concerns without going hysterical is probably the kind of accusation one makes who doesn't want the concerns discussed. Sorta like race-bating: throwing out red meat and muddying the water to preclude sober and considered thought.

Posted by: Ptah at April 5, 2006 11:17 AM

P: What abuses? There's nothing in that story that would necessarily be different today. If you're in favor of deporting illegal immigrants, this is what it's going to look like.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 5, 2006 11:31 AM


Yes, racism precludes thoughtful discussion.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 11:36 AM

It would probably take less than 16 years for US citizens to get back in the country if similar deportations were done now.

And yes, oj's use of the race card is a little shoddy.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at April 5, 2006 12:19 PM

Not necessarily. He was 6 at the time. Under current law, US citizens can't bring their immediate family into the country as of right until age 21.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 5, 2006 12:36 PM

"They came in with guns and told us to get out," recalls Pia, 81, a retired railroad worker in Bakersfield, Calif., of the 1931 raid. "They didn't let us take anything," not even a trunk that held birth certificates proving that he and his five siblings were U.S.-born citizens.

THAT abuse. Claiming you're a US born citizen, and not being permitted to get the proof of it, is an abuse in my eyes.

erp nailed the issue. Another part of the problem is losing one's means of identifying oneself. Short of using biometrics (think the laser eye scanners of "Minority Report") i can't think of anything that would be reliable AND acceptable: I DON'T want to be tagged with an RFID module like a car or a farm animal.

And david, do you have a link for that rule? I knew a very sweet Korean lady who was in the States with her American husband, and was obligated to return to Korea when he divorced her. (and I think he's scum).

Ali, I think you misconstrued my example: I wasn't saying that Orrin was playing the race baiting card, but the "you're a racist!" card. It doesn't have to be racism: What is needed is a crime that is so universally regarded as heinous and dispicable that the ACCUSATION that one has done the crime is sufficient to shut down the reasoning processes so that nobody asks: hey, is the accusation TRUE? This is usually accompanied by the assumption that the crime is so heinous that NOBODY would possibly LIE when accusing someone of it. I knew a guy whose bitter ex accused him of molesting their daughter to win custody: Georgia allows children the option of deciding which parent to stay with when they reach 14, and he had to take his ex to court because she wouldn't permit their daughter the right to choose. The daughter had always said her dad was innocent, and the court finally decided she was old enough to be believed. She arrived at his house ONLY with the clothes on her back.

So yes, I DO believe there are people who WILL lie about ANYTHING to get their way.

Posted by: Ptah at April 5, 2006 2:29 PM


Your position is racist, not pedophiliac or incestual.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 2:48 PM

The rule is here.

I understood that at least part of the "abuse" was not allowing the children to prove their citizenship. But that's not particularly relevent, as it doesn't give the parents or non-citizen siblings any residency rights. It is not unusual for families including citizen minors to be deported. There is some anecdotal evidence that USCIA (nee INS) agents often close their eyes to these situations, but that's just because there are some jobs you can't get Americans to do.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 5, 2006 3:09 PM

USCIA should have been USCIS.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 5, 2006 4:52 PM

Mr. Ptah, sorry for the delay, some of us don't work for a living. This article does show why the anti-immigration side is such a hard sell. The press loves this sort of human interest angle.
They will shove it down our throats, day after day, hoping to pin the suffering on the Republicans(and the Conservative movement). The press has played this bait and switch game for years.
One other comment. You mentioned the previous amnesties had not settled the issue. In a democracy, few issues are settled. If you want settled, get the King OJ keeps pushing(If you are reading OJ, have you read Leftism Revisited? I would love to see your thoughts on this book.) I do think that the amnesties were and are the best solution, I don't believe Americans are up for another round of deportations. We still can't racially profile arabs for heaven's sake! Both sides feel they have won, and something has been fixed. That's good enough. We don't need a permanent solution, we just need to stall until we are no longer the best place in the world. That worked for the British, and it will work for us.
One last thought. Most people I talk to about this issue don't have a problem with people coming
here and working. They have a problem with people
using welfare and other programs in that vein. Perhaps ending those programs would be a more productive use of your time(Those programs do seem to be one of the ways that the left uses to destroy communities....)

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 5, 2006 6:27 PM

the notion that immigrants come here to leech off the welfare system is just a myth anyway.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 6:33 PM

Mexicans are Catholics, soccer fans, and have a world-class cuisine. More please.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 5, 2006 6:57 PM

Yes and No, OJ. The majority wants to work, but many people have seen the system abused by immigrants. It's like affirmative action. The 100 who missed out on the job all belive they would have been the one to get it. It's not rational, but it does multiple the 'wounded' community and helps drive what should be a very small political issue.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 5, 2006 7:30 PM


No, they haven't seen it. They've heard myths about it. Most of these nativiss would change their minds if they just worked with illegals for awhile, but they aren't likely to do those jobs, are they?

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 8:05 PM

With respect OJ, they have seen it, I've seen it.
For many, they are the illegals most likely to be seen. They(the illegals who are abusive) are the ones seen at Food Lion using their food stamps. The
illegals who are working are doing hard dirty jobs at bad hours. We don't see them because we don't do
those jobs if we can help it(As you have argued).
I'm not saying abusive immigrants are anything other then a minority. I'm just saying that perception plays a part in creating the opposition to new members to our country.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 5, 2006 8:18 PM

You know the guy with food stamps is illegal how?

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 8:24 PM

Speaking spanish and using food stamps without shame. A stereotype I know, but the public face of the worse of the mexican people, which far too many equate will illegal immigrants.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 5, 2006 8:44 PM

So it's not based in fact. They've not seen anything.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 8:46 PM

Like I said, perception. It only took one person buying steak with food stamps to put my dad off the social safty net. People have long memories when they feel they are being ripped off. For most Americans, the gut reaction is if you are not speaking english, you are a tourist or an illegal immigrant. I don't claim that's fair, but this is a
democracy, and demogogues must be lived with.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 5, 2006 8:54 PM

Sure, but we needn't allow them to demagogue from their positions of ignorance here. There's no shortage of sites on the Internet where they can go spew hate.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 8:57 PM

I haven't seen any demagogues here. You have a very clean site. If people are ignorant, it's hard to collect information about what is formally an illegal act. The same reason that checking papers would fail. Americans tend to give people space unless someone is getting hurt.
But while I have your attention, I would love to see you read Leftism Revisited. It's the only book I've read that gives a intellegent look at Kings, and their role in protecting freedom. Really exploded my worldview.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 5, 2006 9:06 PM

Who wrote it?

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 9:12 PM

Sorry about the delay, had to dig through the stacks. Leftism Revisited was written by Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. I got it on a fluke. I've never seen a book with so much I wanted to argue with but couldn't.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 5, 2006 9:37 PM

Mr. Mitchell:

Thanks, added it to the Wish List. Typically, his books are all out of print.

Here's a bit though:


Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 10:12 PM

Yeah, the book was a real find. When I lost it at Narita I looked for a replacement copy for a year. Points for the Japanese. Their lost and found had it, and the date they found it, a year later. I might have to send you my copy, but I would want it back.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 5, 2006 10:45 PM

I'll find one, thanks.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 10:50 PM