Calendar photo caption: Five-year-old Oscar Climen, a refugee from Mexico, waits in a temporary shelter in Plattsburgh, New York, with his parents' luggage on January 25, 1987. (Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Immigration soared throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the U.S. saw an influx of European, Asian, and Mexican immigrants. White Americans responded to high rates of immigration with violence, exclusionary laws, and race-based deportations targeting immigrants of color.
During the Great Depression, Secretary of Labor William Doak ordered the deportation of Mexican immigrants, the majority of whom were American citizens, under the guise of increasing job opportunities for white Americans.
Later, in 1954, the federal government executed "Operation Wetback," using the derogatory term "wetback" to refer to Mexican immigrants. The operation led to the removal of nearly one million Mexican immigrants, the largest mass deportation in U.S. history.
In response to the attacks on 9/11, Congress passed a series of laws that severely restricted the rights of immigrants, targeted Muslims and people from the Middle East for expedited deportations, and established the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Today, the majority of immigrants are people of color from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, India, and China. Immigrants of color are deported in far higher numbers than white European immigrants.
In September 2021, more than 10,000 Haitians seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border were violently corralled by U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback. The White House called images of agents on horses chasing Haitian migrants along the Rio Grande "horrific," but the federal government deported tens of thousands of people to Haiti in the months that followed.