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Book Displays: Equal Justice Initiative 2021: Oct

Virtual displays based on the 2021 A History of Racial Injustice calendar.

October's Topic - U.S. Border Patrol and Racial Violence

A boy and two women in a border patrol car

Calendar photo caption: In 1995, a Mexican family sits in the back of a border patrol car after being detained in Arizona (Andrew Litchenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Calendar Text

After the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Action of 1882, Chinese immigrants who couldn't meet the law's strict standards began to enter the U.S. from Mexico. In the 1910's, people fled to the U.S. from Mexico to escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution.

In 1924, the U.S. Border Patrol was formally established as an armed border force dedicated to stopping immigrants from Mexico and Asia. In 1929, the U.S. first made undocumented immigration a crime and prosecuted some 44,000 immigrants in the following decade.

In 1954, Border patrol began "Operation Wetback," a mass effort to deport Mexican immigrants. Border Patrol agents descended on border towns and cities as far from the border as San Francisco and Chicago to arrest and deport Mexican immigrants. About 1.3 million people, including Latino U.S. citizens, were deported to Southern Mexico to prevent them from easily returning to the border. Many deported people were transported by ship in what a congressional investigation found were conditions reminiscent of an "18th century slave ship." Hundreds died.

The U.S.-Mexico border has long been a site of racialized violence. Armed militia groups have patrolled alongside government agents for nearly 200 years. When Mexico abolished slavery in 1829 and 1830, the border became a site where vigilante white groups captured "runaway slaves." In 1977, the Ku Klux Klan patrolled the border in "white power" t-shirts, claiming that their presence was necessary to respond to "the illegal alien problem."