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From the Archives: A 1950 surge in border crossings

From the Archives: A 1950 surge in border crossings
A Border Patrol officer searches four immigrants caught entering California illegally from Mexico. This photo appeared in the May 2, 1950, Los Angeles Times. (Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

In early 1950, illegal border crossings from Mexico into California surged. In April 1949, the Border Patrol detained about 5,000 people. The following April, the number had skyrocketed to 21,000.

Reporter Bill Dredge reported in the May 2, 1950, Los Angeles Times:

Mexican nationals — 21,000 of them — flooded across the Mexican border into the United States during April and were returned by harassed Immigration Service officials.

How many eluded the overworked border patrolmen and made their way successfully into the farming areas of California, nobody knows.

The endless wave has been unprecedented in the nation’s history. Border patrolmen have loaded immigrants into trucks and buses, rushed them back to Mexicali and dumped them on their native soil. To do otherwise would require an army of clerks and officials.

On every hand, officials concerned with the problem are at a loss for an immediate solution. April’s total of returned immigrants saw 16,000 counted at the El Centro area office and 5,000 more at the Chula Vista office in San Diego County.

In March, 16,000 people flowed across the international boundary.

In the May 3, 1950, Los Angeles Times, Dredge reported that the “Biggest single reason [for the surge] is found in the 40% curtailment of legal Mexican national contract laborers,” allowed into California.

These 1950 photos by Art Rogers appeared in the May 2 and 3 editions of the Los Angeles Times.

These 310 Mexican nationals worked just two hours before immigration patrolmen raided the carrot fie
Some 310 Mexican nationals worked just two hours before immigration patrolmen raided the carrot field where they labored. They were returned to Mexico. This photo was published in the May 2, 1950, Los Angeles Times. Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
Four illegal immigrants are stopped by the Border Patrol. They were returned to Mexico via the Calex
A Border Patrol aircraft piloted by Ed Parker flies over four immigrants as they walk toward agents. The group was returned to Mexico via the Calexico-Mexicali border crossing. This photo appeared in the May 3, 1950, Los Angeles Times. Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
Pedro Gomez Mendoza, 25, looks north after being apprehended by the Border Patrol. He had survived 8
Pedro Gomez Mendoza, 25, looks north after being stopped by the Border Patrol. He had survived an 80-mile hike across the desert before being apprehended. This photo appeared in the May 3, 1950, Los Angeles Times. Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
Border crossing at Mexicali-Calexico between California and Mexico at dusk. This is a panorama, made
The border crossing at Mexicali-Calexico, between California and Mexico, appears quiet at dusk. This panorama, made from two photographs, appeared in the May 2, 1950, Los Angeles Times. Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
From left, Richard Wells, chief patrol inspector, Dallas Hunter, Immigration Service budget inspecto
From left, Richard Wells, chief patrol inspector; Dallas Hunter, Immigration Service budget inspector; and Herman London of Los Angeles, district director of immigration, meet in the El Centro office to discuss the surge of illegal immigration. Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here

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