Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call for the mass deportation of millions of immigrants living in the US illegally as well as their American-born children bears similarities to a large-scale removal that many Mexican-American families faced 85 years ago.
During the 1930s Great Depression, counties and cities in the American Southwest and Midwest forced Mexican immigrants and their families to leave the U.S. over concerns they were taking jobs away from whites despite their legal right to stay.
The result: Around 500,000 to 1 million Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans were pushed out of United States during the so-called 1930s’ repatriation.
At that time, immigrants were rounded up and sent to Mexico, sometimes in public places and often without formal proceedings. Others, scared by the violence, left voluntarily.
About 60 percent of those who left were American citizens, according to various studies on the 1930s’ repatriation. Later testimonies show families lost most of their possessions and some family members died trying to return. Neighborhoods in cities such as Houston, San Antonio and Los Angeles became empty.
The impact of the experience on Latinos remains evident today, experts and advocates say.
”It set the tone for later deportations,” said Francisco Balderrama, a Chicano studies professor at California State University, Los Angeles.
Two weeks ago, Donald Trump said that, if elected president, he would expand deportations and end ”birthright citizenship” for children born to immigrants who are in the Unites States illegally. Under his plan, American-born children of immigrants also would be deported with their parents, and Mexico would be asked to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
”They’re illegal,” Donald Trump said of U.S.-born children of people living in the country illegally. ”You either have a country or not.”
Polls now show negative impressions of Donald Trump among Latinos. A Gallup poll released Aug. 24 found that Hispanics were more likely to give Trump unfavorable ratings than favorable ones by 51 percentage points.
Some immigrant advocates pointed to the removal of prominent Latino journalist Jorge Ramos from an Iowa press conference last week as a metaphor for the candidate’s desire to remove Latinos from the United States.
”Mr. Trump should heed the following warning: Our Latino and immigrant communities are not going to forget the way he has treated them,” the Washington, D.C.-based Fair Immigration Reform Movement said in a statement.
Ramos, an anchor for Univision, was escorted out by a Donald Trump aide after Ramos tried to question Trump about his immigration plan. Trump interrupted Ramos, saying he hadn’t been called on and ultimately told Ramos, ”Go back to Univision.”
Ramos was saying, ”You cannot deport 11 million people,” as he was escorted away. He was later allowed to return.
Donald Trump has provided few details on how his proposed deportation effort would be carried out. The conservative-leaning American Action Forum concluded in a report it would cost between $400 billion to $600 billion and take 20 years to remove an estimated 11.2 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
The large-scale deportation Trump envisions would be impractical to enact, due to the extent to which Mexican immigrants have integrated into U.S. society, said Columbia University history professor Mae Ngai.
U.S.-born children of immigrants have been automatically considered American citizens since the adoption of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment in 1868. A Supreme Court ruling in 1898 halted previous attempts to limit the birthright of Chinese-American citizens after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
The ruling upheld the clause for all U.S.-born children, Ngai said, and there have been no successful challenges to the clause since.
In the 1930s, Balderrama said, officials skirted the issue of birthright citizenship by saying they did not want to break up families.
”But they did break up families and many children never saw their parents again,” said Balderrama, co-author of a book about the 1930s’ repatriation.