During the recent tenure of ex-president Donald Trump, every social democrat and left liberal on both sides of the Atlantic was screaming their undying hatred for the White House incumbent, while we in the Communist party were heavily criticised for pointing out that, bad as Mr Trump was as president, he was in reality no worse than most of his predecessors or than most of those competing to follow him.
The situation regarding refugees from central and South America is a case in point. While Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama never claimed openly that he was going to ‘build a wall’ along the border with Mexico, in reality his government fortified that border extremely heavily, and the reception given to the refugees and asylum seekers arriving at the US’s southern border was every bit as aggressive as it was under Trump, if not more so.
For many decades, every US president in office has carried out a programme of scapegoating and deporting the huddled masses of South and central America (even while gleefully exploiting those who made it through as the cheapest of cheap labour). And now, with the changing of the White House guard and the inauguration of President Joe Biden, ‘business as usual’ is again the order of the day.
Business as usual under Biden
The Biden administration has continued the Trump-era policy of choking off of asylum access at US ports, which has meant that one of the deadliest stretches of the US-Mexico divide has become even more dangerous.
Data compiled from interviews with refugees stranded in the Mexican city of Nogales suggest a sharp rise in violence and extortion over the past year, carried out both by organised crime and by Mexican security forces. There has also been a fresh upsurge in the dropping off of captured refugees in dangerous Mexican locations in the middle of the night by US border patrol agents – a practice that had previously been prohibited.
During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden attacked Trump’s policy of ‘zero tolerance’, under which more than 5,000 children had been taken from their parents at the border, calling it a “stain” on the moral fabric of the nation. The president-elect promised to introduce a more humanitarian approach – one that would uphold “the dignity of migrants” and recognise “their legal right to seek asylum”.
Instead, however, Biden’s border patrol agents are summarily expelling individuals, including refugees seeking asylum, back to Mexico after the briefest of ‘encounters’ in the field and without a hearing of any kind. The entire process takes under two hours from finding the refugees to dropping them off somewhere in Mexico.
There have been more than half a million cases of this inhuman practice in the past year – more than 637,000 individuals have been expelled, including at least 13,000 unaccompanied children. In fact, of the many refugees heading to the US border since President Biden came to power, only 0.3 percent have been given the opportunity to make their case for asylum.
As Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Counsel, noted: “Far fewer families have so far been permitted to seek asylum than under the Trump administration in 2019.”
Until this latest round of aggressive dumping began, there had been an agreement in place (whether written or verbal is unknown) between Mexico and the United States as to when and where refugees trying to get into the USA would be returned. This agreement typically limited removals to certain (safer) Mexian ports and prohibited releasing (dumping) people between the night-time hours of 10.00pm and 5.00am.
With such inhuman practices being used by the US government at official border crossings, it is inevitable that increasing numbers of desperate individuals and families will try their luck in the desert. With record-setting heat, more migrant remains were recovered in Arizona in 2020 than any year in the past decade. The deserts of southern Arizona have claimed the lives of more than 3,200 people who have tried to cross them since the mid-1990s.
Divide and rule is the consistent policy of the US ruling class
A brief glance at the history books regarding policies against immigration from Mexico shows us that all US presidents have pursued similar measures ever since the US invaded and colonised the northern half of Mexico and its people in 1848.
During George W Bush’s presidency, the federal government created the Department of Homeland Security following 9/11. In 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created. On the border, there were more attempts to try and keep refugees/migrants out with bills such as the Fence Act in 2006 — legislation that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (then US senators) supported, and which proposed the building of a fortified fence (a wall) all along the southern US border, but was never fully funded.
Republican or Democrat, black, brown or white, male or female, if someone is installed in office as president of the USA that person will not be representing the ordinary American people. Instead, they will, overtly or covertly, cause and support the division of the working classes in order to protect the tiny elite group of super-rich imperialists who really rule the USA and who dictate all of its policies.