A’s his price for not deporting roughly 800,000 “Dreamers” who came to this country as children, Donald Trump demands an escalated war against immigrants, topped by his nightmarish 2,000-mile wall along the Mexican border. Democrats have said no. Whether or not some sort of deal is eventually struck, the country will remain deeply divided over undocumented immigrants from the south.
Unfortunately, though, that debate is entirely focused on domestic policy—how to treat the undocumented after they have arrived. Democrats, thinking Latinos will vote for them, want the newcomers to stay. Republicans, fearing Democrats are right, want them sent back. Employers want their cheap labor. Workers fear their wage competition. The clash of these agendas further inflames simmering social tensions over racism, police tactics, and cultural identity, which in turn feeds Trump’s reactionary base.
Lost in these US-centric arguments is the role of our foreign policy in creating the conditions that push people in Central America and Mexico to make the long, arduous, and frequently fatal trek north.
In the 1980s, Washington and its neoliberal collaborators began imposing policies that favored multinational corporations and hurt the working poor.
For at least 150 years, the United States has intervened with arms, political pressure, and foreign aid in order protect the business and military elites of these countries who have prospered by impoverishing their people.
Still, illegal immigration from the region remained modest until the 1980s, when the US government and its neoliberal collaborators at the IMF and World Bank began imposing policies on the region that favored large multinational corporations, undercutting the small farms and businesses that had supported the working poor.
Meanwhile, many of the oligarchs became partners in the growing narco-trafficking business. Protected by government officials, criminal gangs have spread throughout the region, adding threats of kidnapping, extortion, rape, and murder to the daily life of people struggling to make a living. A young Guatemalan recently told me: “Unless you are connected to one of the families that run this country, there is no future here. Either you work for the narcos or go north.”
The War on Drugs has given weapons and political protection to oligarchs.
By Jeff Faux for THE NATION
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