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Operation Wetback was a 1954 project of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to remove about three million illegal immigrants from the southwestern United States. It focused on Mexican nationals.

Operation Wetback in action The effort began in California and Arizona and coordinated 1075 Border Patrol agents, along with state and local police agencies, to mount an aggressive crackdown, going as far as police sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops and ID checks of "Mexican-looking" people in a region with many Native Americans and native Hispanics.[3] 750 agents targeted agricultural areas with a goal of 1000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 immigrants were caught in the two states. Around 488,000 illegal immigrants are claimed to have left voluntarily for fear of being apprehended. By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and the INS estimates that 500,000 to 700,000 had left Texas on their own. To discourage re-entry, buses and trains took many deportees deep within Mexico before releasing them. Tens of thousands more were deported by two chartered ships, the Emancipation and the Mercurio. The ships ferried them from Port Isabel, Texas, to Veracruz, Mexico, more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) to the south. Some were taken as far as 1,000 miles. Deportation by sea was ended after seven deportees jumped overboard from the Mercurio and drowned, provoked a mutiny and leading to a public outcry in Mexico.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Wetback