1931 newspaper article on the raid in La Placita, Los Angeles.
In the early 1930s, Secretary of Labor William Doak, with the support of President Herbert Hoover, initiated a deportation campaign against “deportable aliens.” Although the campaign was used against immigrants from many nations, Mexicans were a particular target. Hoover authorized an increase in the number of Border Patrol officers and Doak found willing partners in state and local officials. At the time the Bureau of Immigration worked under the auspices of the Department of Labor. Doak believed that the Great Depression was caused by “alien labor” taking the jobs of American workers. Mexican immigrants, according to government officials, also used welfare benefits that should go to “Americans.” Either way, Mexican immigrants were viewed as bad for the nation: they worked and they did not work.
Between 1930 and 1932, the Border Patrol raided work places, union halls, parks, and neighborhoods. Officers demanded identification. The raids took both immigrants and U.S. citizens who could not immediately prove citizenship. Vigilante groups felt validated to attack Mexican American barrios. In El Paso, individuals disguised themselves as immigration officials and pressured people to return to Mexico.
Like today, the government’s greatest weapon was fear.
I know profoundly the long-term consequences of this strategy. Several branches of my family repatriated, including two generations of U.S.-born citizen children. They returned a few years later and the boys who had been sent to Mexico joined the military, serving honorably in World War II. The fear remained so strong in their mother that I was not allowed to speak to her about the experience even five decades later.
Today our community is experiencing a similar wave of fear. A Google search for today’s news on deportations as I write this reveals headlines such as “Memos signed by DHS secretary describe sweeping new guidelines for deportations,” “Trump plans to ramp up deportations, expand target immigrant groups,” and “Homeland Security set to make it much easier to deport undocumented immigrants.”
I have witnessed fear move from generation to generation in my family from a deportation campaign that happened eighty years ago. I don’t want more families to be scarred by threats of deportation. I don’t want children to tell their teachers that they are scared. I don’t want my friends elementary-age daughter to say, “They know where we live.”
This is a time of fear. As people with friends, family, and community members under threat from this latest fear campaign, we want to help. We have heart-felt intentions to protect our loved ones. But we need to be careful. We have to be responsible, clear-headed, and cautious not to spread the fear.
Social media is filled with messages warning of raids, of the DMV registering legal residents to vote in order to frame them as criminals, and other stories posted by supporters of immigrant communities. Some are accurate; others are not. It can be difficult to distinguish between them. But it is essential that we be careful to do this. We can’t help Trump and his administration in their mission to increase the terror in our communities.Let's not feed the fear machine.
Wear your Voice outlines how to avoid being part of the fear machine here: http://wearyourvoicemag.com/more/social-justice/share-info-ice-raids-social-media-read