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22 April 2013

the Bisbee Deportation

Sheriff Henry C. Wheeler is the key to understanding the Bisbee Deportation of 1917. In looking back, the Deportation appears inconceivable; how could that happen, and in the U.S.A, no less?

After reading the testimony of Sheriff Wheeler, the figurehead of the Bisbee Deportation, one has to wonder whether racism might have been the ultimate motivation behind the event. He rants about the "foreigners" who came to town just to cause trouble by standing in the picket lines; he claims the majority of those deported were Mexicans. Not Mexican-Americans, but Mexicans. He says it like it's a bad word. Those men, he said, weren't even employed at the mine they were striking against. Yet, in late June 1917, Sheriff Wheeler had refused when the mining officials asked him to step in and deputize "special officers" to take care of the strike. His reason? He didn't want to encourage vigilantism. Why, then, did he do exactly that, even leading the deportation himself less than a month later? 

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