How Eisenhower Dealt With America’s First Illegal Crisis


This is not the first time the US has dealt with an illegal immigration problem. Only last time it was dealt with in a decidedly swifter and sterner manner. The response, coordinated by President Dwight Eisenhower, resulted in nearly 3 million illegal immigrants being sent home.

During his administration, Eisenhower became the first American president forced to deal with problems stemming from illegal immigration. Only, in Eisenhower’s time the politically correct culture of liberal sensitivities had yet to emerge.

There was not much in the way of sympathy for those who had crossed into the country illegally.

Eisenhower told the New York Times exactly what had caused the problem: “The rise in illegal border crossing by Mexicans [illegal immigrants] to a current rate of more than 1 million cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the federal government.”

‘Ike’ took quick and decisive action. He used 1,075 Border Patrol Agents to seal the border. In doing so, he achieved a task our government today deems impossible with a force that is 10% larger. Once the border was sealed, Eisenhower went about the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens.

In June of 1954, he appointed retired General Joseph “Jumpin’ Joe” Swing to head “Operation Wetback,” which sent local and federal officials on sweeps of Mexican neighborhoods looking for illegals.

Within one month 50,000 illegals had been captured and deported, while nearly half a million more fled the country to avoid arrest. By September 80,000 more illegals had been removed from the state of Texas alone, and between 500,000-700,000 more had fled the country.

These illegals weren’t just dropped at the border; Swing arranged for buses and trains to take immigrants deep into Mexico before releasing them. Tens of thousands more were shipped by boat from Texas to Vera Cruz, Mexico.

Using less man power and resources than the federal government has today, Eisenhower was able to seal the border and send nearly 3 million illegal aliens home. The policy had the added effectiveness of deterring future illegal crossings.

Whereas today illegal immigrants are given government aid and college tuition, policies which have undoubtedly contributed to an increase in illegal immigration.

The economic effects aside, the level of illegal immigration today represents a grave national security concern.

Whereas Eisenhower’s policies deterred such activity, President Obama’s policies only further encourage the flow of undocumented persons over our southern border.


Keith Farrell

About Keith Farrell

Keith is a graduate of the University of Connecticut. He has been published at The Daily Caller, PJ Media, London’s City AM, Libertychat, The Libertarian Republic, Bankable Insight, and The Register Citizen. Keith is also the founder and president of the Spirits of ’76 national nonprofit organization



  1. […] In June 1954, President Eisenhower enlisted retired General Joseph “Jumpin’ Joe” Swing to head up a concerted drive to deport the increasing number of illegal aliens in this country. As a result, the government sent droves of local as well as Federal officials sweeping through targeted neighborhoods in search of illegal immigrants, according to the Federalist Papers Project. […]

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