It almost seemed as if US President Donald Trump had gone too far. The reaction at the world’s grassroots to the separation of children asylum seekers from their parents at the US border with Mexico showed up President Trump for what he was: someone with power who was feeding on prejudices inherent in the nationalistic model, which was underpinned by the kind of xenophobia which dehumanised asylum seekers enough for children to be separated from parents.
Though President Trump has signed an executive order rescinding this aspect of the policy, he has continued with the zero-tolerance policy which was behind the whole problem. And of course, he has come nowhere to questioning the basis of the problem, the holding of national borders as unbreachable.
President Trump’s views on asylum seekers are well-known: they are seeking to get into the USA by whatever means possible, and then somehow obtain legalisation. Himself the grandson of immigrants, he has not shown sympathy with these immigrants. One difference is that his grandparents were German, and were not asylum seekers. They were White and Protestant, and though not Anglo-Saxon, they belonged to the same racial stock. Their reasons for migrating was not because they were fleeing their native land in fear of their lives, but because they hoped that they would find a better life in the USA.
Those fleeing across the Mexican border are claiming asylum. Part of the problem is that many have entered the USA illegally, because to claim asylum legally would mean having to spend weeks in a reception facility, where families are separated, as minors are placed in separate facilities.
The refugees are fleeing violence being perpetrated by drug cartels which have apparently got carte blanche in large areas of Mexico. Now even women and children are being killed. It may be true that at least some of those being killed are involved with the cartels. But the USA under Trump has done or said nothing to acknowledge that the cocaine cartels are doing most, if not all, of their business in the USA. Therefore, the asylum seekers’ problem has been created by the USA.
It is the USA’s inability to do anything about the mass of cocaine users, whether or not they are addicts, which has led to the cartels gaining so much money and the impunity which has led to the killing of 18 candidates for the July 1 elections. It is a tribute to the power of money, rather than a reproach to the abilities of the Mexican police, that these cases are all unsolved.
The criminalisation of the cartels occurred because they wished to defend themselves against the government and its forces. They have also had to defend themselves against the forces trying to exterminate them, which were government forces with US backing. The USA has tried to cut off supplies by paying the governments of suppliers to go after them, but this has not caused any major dent. It has only made the affected societies more violent, and subject to being abandoned by peaceable citizens. Their thoughts turn to the USA. Not only is it close, but there are already networks of Latino communities within the USA ready to provide help and support. Many Latinos are not only settled in the USA, but are citizens. However, the new arrivals often have problems with the law, and it is these people that the new zero tolerance policy was supposed to target. The idea was that all those who were in the country illegally should be sent back. That in turn caused many of those being sent back to file claims for asylum.
President Trump, during his 2016 election campaign, castigated Mexicans as criminals. He had promised to build a wall across the USA-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants. He thus, probably unconsciously, amalgamated the experiences of two South Asian countries. India has built a wall across the Line of Control that divides Azad Kashmir from Indian-Held Kashmir, and the Working Boundary between IHK and Pakistan (formerly the boundary between the old Kashmir state and British India). Pakistan would like to build a wall on the Pak-Afghan border. It has also dealt with the issue of a huge refugee problem, and while it allowed the refugees into Pakistan, it has never separated minors from families, not so much out of the goodness of its heart as because the thought never occurred to it. However, it experienced a drug problem, that of heroin. Heroin was intended primarily for the US market, and the smuggling was basically in that direction. However, the drug cartels may have done a lot of damage, and may have suborned state agencies, but they never really caused a flood of refugees as the South American cocaine cartels are doing. It should be noted that Mexico is not the only source of those clamouring to get into the USA: other Central American countries, like San Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, are also producing asylum seekers. No less than 90 percent of the cocaine getting into the USA passes through these countries.
At first glance, there seems no reason why the South Americans should not be welcomed to the USA. However, the USA has long had a problem finding workers in agriculture. A large number of Mexicans fill in that gap. However, such immigrants are disruptive in a number of ways. First of all, they are mostly Catholic, which makes them something of a problem in a country which was not just predominantly Protestant, but also evangelical. Then they are Hispanic and proud of it. One result is that Spanish is a language of instruction in some areas, while it is studied as a second language by many non-Hispanics. One consequence of having large Hispanophone immigrant populations is that the language survives, as does the culture.
However, what seems to have been a fatal objection is that they are racially Native American, with an admixture of Spanish conquistadores and African blacks. The USA dealt very harshly with their own Native American population, conducting what can only be described as genocide, and absorbing the survivors into its own civilisation, which is firmly WASP.
The racism of Trump’s distaste for Hispanics might have been deniable if it had not been for his incendiary exclusion of Muslims from the USA by exploiting Islamophobic rhetoric. While the Arab Muslims were detested by Zionists and Israel supporters of which Trump is enamoured, and while the South Asian Muslims are disliked (especially if Pakistani) by India (which Trump favours). If Israel and India are united by large Muslim populations mistrusted and disliked by their governments, the USA seems set fair under Trump to join them. Both Arabs and South Asians are brown and black-haired, not white and blond. Trump has also said of protesting white supremacists that they include a lot of ‘good people.’ He seems to be getting away among Zionists with this association with crypto-Nazis because he is such a friend of Israel that he has shifted the US embassy to Jerusalem, but his presidency has coincided with a rise in racism of a more familiar kind: against Afro-Americans.
The racism underlying his no-tolerance policy can be seen if the refugees had been Norwegians, or any other Nordic group. Families would probably not be broken up. The USA had always been built on its immigrants. However, now that the pools of the ‘right kind’ has dried up, the USA has long been converting its limines (which merely demarcate the beginnings and endings of a state’s territory) into limites, into which ‘barbarians’ are not to be let in, and which must be policed, even fenced.
The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as executive editor of The Nation.
The racism of Trump’s distaste for Hispanics might
have been deniable if it had not been for his incendiary exclusion of Muslims from the USA by exploiting Islamophobic rhetoric.