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TIME Magazine, April 27, 1953, p. 29:|
IMMIGRATION: The Ants
In 1938, only 3,000 Mexican "wetbacks" were arrested for sneaking illegally across the shallows of the Rio Grande into the U.S. But World War II brought labor shortages to California and Texas harvest fields, and in the years which followed, the wetbacks thronged in by the tens of thousands. The annual invasion has grown bigger & bigger--despite legislation, public clamor, the hardships which the wetbacks suffer, and the best efforts of the U.S. border patrol, which caught and shipped 635,135 of them home (many of them repeaters) during 1952 alone.
There are reasons. At their lowest, U.S. wages seem high to the Mexican border jumper. And in recent years, poor men in all corners of Mexico have heard dazzling tales of the wonders and luxuries to be had in los Estados Unidos--canned chicken soup, pink nylon panties to be taken home to wives and girl friends, sweet paste (wonder of wonders) for scrubbing the teeth, and the little brush to squirt it on. Many a wetback, returning to a small Mexican village, has been hailed as a hero, and has been trailed by every able-bodied man in town when he started north on a new expedition.
The border patrol has taken to jeeps, guided by an eleven-plane air force, in an effort to stem the tide; it has instituted roadblocks, train searches, and patient patrols in ranch country through the four border states. The wetbacks remain undiscouraged. A good many, smartened up by experience, now try to go as far north as Chicago, Detroit, Toledo, or the apple orchards of Washington and Oregon. Once beyond the patrol's real sphere of activity, a lucky Mexican can live and work for months or years without detection.
Last month, with drought searing Mexico and spring crops ripening in the U.S., the patrolmen caught an army of 73,176 along the 1,700-mile border. All were escorted back across the line. But for every one who was caught, at least one, and probably more, safely got past the patrols. This week the wetbacks were seeping across the border at a record-breaking rate--two a minute, day & night. "Like ants," said Chief Patrol Inspector Ed Parker. "They're swarming over the desert like ants."
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