Republican presidential candidate and real estate mogul Donald Trump is apparently taking some inspiration from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower when it comes to his immigration policies. During the fourth Republican debate this week, the bombastic billionaire praised a controversial border program from the 1950s that sent undocumented immigrants south across the border into remote areas where many died of sunstroke.

Trump didn’t use the racially charged name of the program, known as Operation Wetback, when he was looking to prop up his own proposals to begin a mass deportation program. In the days since, he has been criticized for supporting the program, which has been called a human rights violation and forced the Red Cross to intervene.

Eisenhower “moved immigrants just beyond the border; they came back. Moved them again beyond the border; they came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south; they never came back. Dwight Eisenhower. You don't get nicer, you don't get friendlier," Trump said.

The program has been criticized for the dire situations that those immigrants found themselves in. They often lacked food and water and were in unfamiliar places. The immigrants, mostly Mexican, though some were U.S. citizens of Mexican descent, were usually rounded up and shipped south on cargo boats.  One notable roundup sent hundreds of the immigrants to the blazing hot desert south of Mexicali, a border town less than 100 miles east of San Diego. Eighty-eight people died in the 112-degree heat, and more would have died, an American labor official argued, if the Red Cross had not intervened.

"The Eisenhower mass deportation policy was tragic," Alfonso Aguilar, a conservative Republican and executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, told NPR in response to Trump’s debate comments. "Human rights were violated, people were removed to remote locations without food and water, there were many deaths, sometimes U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin were removed. It was a travesty — it was terrible. To say it's a success story, it's ridiculous."

Controversial immigration remarks are a central point of Trump’s presidential aspirations. He began his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. He supports deporting the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country and building a giant wall along the southern border with Mexico to stop further border crossings.