After more than a century, what is true of Bisbee deportation is not understood by most people. Although, the issues started as a labor dispute. It led to several conflicts in the international community.
What is true of the Bisbee deportation? The Bisbee deportation as it is widely known occurred in November 1917. It is the illegal and unconstitutional kidnapping and deportation of nearly 1,300 mine workers that were striking. These people were arrested and deported to Mexico. The action was carried out by Phelps Dodge company and the Cochise County Sheriff, Harry C. Wheeler.
These activities took time to reach the masses. The major suspects in the activities had closed down means for outer communications. The suspects presented their actions as being helpful to the United States. After investigations by the presidential committee, the actions described as “illegal and without authority in the law by the States nor Federal”.
Detailed Facts About The Bisbee Deportation
The entire details of the Bisbee deportation though smudged, what is true of the Bisbee deportation is that it was an illegal action. The action was a well thought out event between the Sheriff and Phelps Dodge company executives.
On July 11, 1917, the Phelps Dodge Executives, some persons like the Sheriff, train manager, and cattle car owners held a meeting to discuss the deportation of the striking workers. The Sheriff recruited about 2,200 deputies for the action.
On July 12, 1917, the deputies went around the town of Bisbee. They positioned themselves to carry out the assigned task of deporting the striking workers. They all wore a white armband for easy identification.
The raid started at about 6:30 am, with the deputies combing through the town with a list of striking workers and men who did not want to work at the mining industry.
There were plenty of local grocery stall owners arrested alongside. Male citizens were arrested with those who supported the strike. Two men reportedly died, one was a deputy and the other a miner.
These men assembled at the front Bisbee postal office and marched them about 3km to the Warren ballpark. Sheriff Wheeler supervised the march with a car armed with a belt-fed machine gun. Those captured were arraigned, asked to denounce the strike action and return to work.
Those given a choice were not members of the striking party. Only 700 men agreed to the conditions and the rest were detained. The El Paso and Southwestern Railroad provided 23 cattle cars for the action. The assigned deputies forced the rest of the workers at gunpoint to enter the cars.
Water was not provided for them until the train stopped at 10miles east of Douglas and some that were on the cattle car was provided with water. Some deputies stationed at nearby hilltops and armed guards around the train tracks. The train arrived at New Mexico at 9:30 pm and journeyed through Columbus and came to a stop at Herman as at 3:30 am.
No news of this action was reported because the Phelps Dodge company executives had seized telephones and telegraph to stop the news of the capture and deportation from exposure. Wires were not sent out of town and press reporters halted from publishing the action.
The news came out after an IWW attorney gave a press briefing. It was the Luna County sheriff, who wired the Governor of New Mexico on what actions to take after seeing 1,300 cashless men. Assistance was sought from the then Washington Governor by the Governor of New Mexico.
The President, President Wilson authorized U.S troops to guide the men to New Mexico and provided them with tents to camp for the period of 2months until September 17, 1917.
Was Justice Given To The Mastermind Of The Bisbee Deportation?
The U.S. Department of Justice authorized the arrest of 21 Phelps Dodge executives and others involved including law enforcement officers from Bisbee Cochise Counties. Although, Sheriff Weller was not arrested because he was serving in France. The pre-trial motion released the 21 Phelps Dodge Executives based on the fact that no federal laws were violated. Although, the Justice Department filed an appeal.
The Chief Justice then wrote that “for an 8-to-1 majority that the U.S. Constitution did not empower the federal government to enforce the rights of the deportees”. Rather, it “assumed the continued possession by the states of the reserved power to deal with free residence, ingress, and egress.” Only in the case of “state discriminatory action” would the federal government have a role to play.
Some mine workers filed for a Civil suite, most of which the jury never granted. Most of the suite was dropped quietly and never saw the light of day. Though some workers who were lucky received payments ranging from $500-$1,250.
What happened to the President of Phelps Dodge?
The President of Phelps Dodge was Walter Douglas. He was regarded as the mastermind of the Bisbee deportation. It was widely believed that he carried out the action to weaken the most radical union called IWW.
He was accused by the federal government with others for the deportation and conspiracy of the mine workers but the charges were dropped as quickly as it was raised.
What Caused the Bisbee Deportation?
The major cause of the deportation was reported to be the inflation rate after World War I. The rate of living was high and the wages received by the miners did not cover up their bills. The mining companies were the major business in Bisbee. This was because they were the largest employers of labor and local businesses depended on them to survive.