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Congress establishes United States Border Patrol


On this day in 1924, the U.S. Congress established the United States Border Patrol as part of the Immigration Bureau, an arm of the Department of Labor. Its duties included the prevention of smuggling and the arrest of illegal entrants into the United States. During Prohibition smuggling absorbed most of the attention of the border patrol, as bootleggers avoided the bridges and slipped their forbidden cargo across the Rio Grande by way of pack mules. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt united the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization into the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and in 1940 the patrol moved out of the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice.From 1942 to 1964, the border patrol recruited Mexican nationals, called braceros, authorizing them to visit the United States for specific periods of time as legal agricultural workers. In 1954, however, as illegal immigration along the Mexican border soared, the patrol inaugurated Operation Wetback, a large repatriation project. The 1980s and 1990s saw an influx of thousands of immigrants, both legal and illegal, from Mexico and Central America to the Rio Grande Valley.

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