From the archives: How The Times covered mass deportations in the Eisenhower era

After Don­ald Trump at this week’s Re­pub­lic­an de­bate men­tioned a 1950s fed­er­al pro­gram to find and de­port Mex­ic­an na­tion­als liv­ing in the U.S., my col­leagues and I thought it would be in­ter­est­ing to look at con­tem­por­ary cov­er­age of the events.

The fed­er­al pro­gram had the highly un­for­tu­nate name “Op­er­a­tion Wet­back” — and in 1954 The Times did not spare its use of that of­fens­ive term. By 1979, the pa­per’s stylebook would cau­tion that the word was ac­cept­able only in quo­ta­tions. The 1995 edi­tion ad­ded that even in quotes, the us­age re­quired the ap­prov­al of a seni­or ed­it­or. Out­side of spe­cif­ic, rare cir­cum­stances, such as ref­er­ences to the past, the news­pa­per would not use such lan­guage today.

But we also can’t ig­nore the his­tor­ic­al re­cord. That’s why we are show­ing here five dates’ worth of cov­er­age of the fed­er­al de­port­a­tion ef­forts. The pro­gram launched in June 1954, and there are four days of cov­er­age from that year. I’ve also in­cluded an art­icle from June 1955 that de­clares the phe­nomen­on of il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion a “prob­lem solved.”

To read more about how The Times re­ports on and writes about is­sues of im­mig­ra­tion today, please see this Read­ers’ Rep­res­ent­at­ive art­icle from May 2013: L.A. Times up­dates guidelines for cov­er­ing im­mig­ra­tion

Read more: The dark, com­plex his­tory of Trump’s mod­el for his mass de­port­a­tion plan

Elysi­an Park Will Be Fo­cal Point in Ali­en Roundup

Yes­ter­day’s Re­turnees at No­gales Make Up Biggest Num­ber in Cur­rent Crack­down

1187 Wait in Blis­ter­ing Heat for Last Leg of Jour­ney Home

Op­er­a­tion Wet­back Suc­cess Noted on First An­niversary