George W. Bush isn't the first Republican president to face a full-blown immigration crisis on the US-Mexican border.
Fifty-three years ago, when newly elected Dwight Eisenhower moved into the White House, America's southern frontier was as porous as a spaghetti sieve. As many as 3 million illegal migrants had walked and waded northward over a period of several years for jobs in California, Arizona, Texas, and points beyond.
President Eisenhower cut off this illegal traffic. He did it quickly and decisively with only 1,075 United States Border Patrol agents - less than one-tenth of today's force. The operation is still highly praised among veterans of the Border Patrol.
.......America "was faced with a breakdown in law enforcement on a very large scale," Mr. Brownell said. "When I say large scale, I mean hundreds of thousands were coming in from Mexico [every year] without restraint."
Although an on-and-off guest-worker program for Mexicans was operating at the time, farmers and ranchers in the Southwest had become dependent on an additional low-cost, docile, illegal labor force of up to 3 million, mostly Mexican, laborers.
........In 1954, Ike appointed retired Gen. Joseph "Jumpin' Joe" Swing, a former West Point classmate and veteran of the 101st Airborne, as the new INS commissioner.
Influential politicians, including Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D) of Texas and Sen. Pat McCarran (D) of Nevada, favored open borders, and were dead set against strong border enforcement, Brownell said. But General Swing's close connections to the president shielded him - and the Border Patrol - from meddling by powerful political and corporate interests.
One of Swing's first decisive acts was to transfer certain entrenched immigration officials out of the border area to other regions of the country where their political connections with people such as Senator Johnson would have no effect.
Then on June 17, 1954, what was called "Operation Wetback" began. Because political resistance was lower in California and Arizona, the roundup of aliens began there. Some 750 agents swept northward through agricultural areas with a goal of 1,000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Another 488,000, fearing arrest, had fled the country.
By mid-July, the crackdown extended northward into Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, and eastward to Texas.
By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 illegals had left the Lone Star State voluntarily.
Unlike today, Mexicans caught in the roundup were not simply released at the border, where they could easily reenter the US. To discourage their return, Swing arranged for buses and trains to take many aliens deep within Mexico before being set free.
Tens of thousands more were put aboard two hired ships, the Emancipation and the Mercurio. The ships ferried the aliens from Port Isabel, Texas, to Vera Cruz, Mexico, more than 500 miles south.
The sea voyage was "a rough trip, and they did not like it," says Don Coppock, who worked his way up from Border Patrolman in 1941 to eventually head the Border Patrol from 1960 to 1973.
Mr. Coppock says he "cannot understand why [President] Bush let [today's] problem get away from him as it has. I guess it was his compassionate conservatism, and trying to please [Mexican President] Vincente Fox."
There are now said to be 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the US. Of the Mexicans who live here, an estimated 85 percent are here illegally.
......General Swing's fast-moving campaign soon secured America's borders - an accomplishment no other president has since equaled. Illegal migration had dropped 95 percent by the late 1950s.
Several retired Border Patrol agents who took part in the 1950s effort, including Mr. Edwards, say much of what Swing did could be repeated today.
"Some say we cannot send 12 million illegals now in the United States back where they came from. Of course we can!" Edwards says.
Why I am I not surprised that with 10 times the resources Bush is thwarted by a problem only 4 times the size that Ike faced? Of course it is not just a matter of competence, but of will. Ike had an unfair advantage though, he wasn't a politician (ever notice how we're developing our own "royal" families) and he wasn't in bed with (or one of) the CEOs. Bush is trying to provide political cover for the immigration bill by "cracking down" on illegal immigration. We've got decades of evidence about how the Plutocrats in our ingrown Political caste will act when the heat is off though. Is it any wonder that we don't trust the D.C. crowd when they claim to be serious about border security?