This piece was published in the Mainline’s third print issue released for distribution on Thurs., Dec. 19, 2019. It was sent to print on Thurs., Dec. 5, 2019.
I recently made the horrible mistake of exploring the bleak wormhole of #illegals on Twitter.
Thousands of incoherent tweets later, my mind reeled with the pure insanity of reactionary America, because what I’d read was a concentrated manifestation of every Fox news clip I’d ever seen. The general attitude of racist-chud Twitter seems to be that our nation has just been sitting here minding its own business while hordes of hardened criminals plan their invasion. The overall conspiracy seems to be that undocumented immigrants are sneaking in here to vote for Democrats so they can steal our jobs, our welfare, and plant their “anchor babies” to replace our “white population” with MS-13 child soldiers.
This psychotic mentality is fueled and perpetuated, of course, by the king of racist-chud Twitter himself, President Donald Trump. He famously began his 2016 presidential campaign calling immigrants “criminals” who need to be removed and has since escalated to the point of explicitly saying that immigrants are animals who are coming here to steal our jobs. But of course, none of this began with Trump. The only positive thing Trump’s overt racism and lack of subtlety does is expose the quiet part, or the dog whistle, of the anti-immigrant agenda.
As a sort of crescendo of evidence for white nationalist ideology in the White House, the emails of Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller were leaked on Nov. 12, 2019. These emails show Miller, beyond the shadow of a doubt, spreading racist immigration conspiracy theories, agreeing with Adolf Hitler on immigration, maintaining connections to white nationalist figures, and many other terrifying revelations. All of this solidifies the fact that the main ideological force currently driving U.S. immigration policy is delusional white nationalism.
I have to say that the Democratic version of this conspiratorial outlook would have to be the RussiaGate crowd coupled with a naivete of Democratic politicians’ roles in both expanding the immigration system and U.S. imperialism. Complaining about interference from other nations in our elections as if it were a novel technique introduced by the specific evil of Putin is just as insane as thinking that immigrants are traveling thousands of miles on foot to illegally vote for Hillary Clinton. While it may not seem like it, sleeping on the Democrats’ role in expanding ICE, creating our detention centers, and destabilizing Latin America, is just as damaging as falling into far right-wing narratives.
The infrastructure for the present immigration detention system in the U.S. began under George W. Bush, grew through Obama’s eight-year term, and is now in full bloom under Trump. Much like the mass incarceration of African Americans in the U.S., creating the horrific labyrinth of chain-linked fences, barbed wire, and make-shift human cages of our nation’s immigration detention system has also been a bipartisan effort. It has been such a major narrative that the horrors of our immigrant jails begin and end with the Trump administration that it has even infected our own government.
In 2018, the House Oversight Committee sent out a widely shared Tweet mistakenly displaying many images of children in cages from the Obama era in an attempt to attack Trump’s policies. This committee was headed by Democrats who not only seemed ignorant to the fact that children were also in cages during the Obama administration, but quick to knee-jerk react to Trump’s newest offense. The glaring hypocrisy in delusions on both the right and left can also easily be seen by the slightest analysis of America’s policy in dealing with our neighbors to the South.
Our history with South and Central America is soaked in blood. The U.S. has been involved in violent coups in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Uruguay, Haiti, Peru, Honduras, Cuba, El Salvador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. In the nations on this long list, we have funded death squads, empowered despots, and removed democratically elected leaders, all in a quest for resources and profits. These terrible actions have occurred under both Democrat and Republican presidents. Black and white thinking tells us these are partisan issues; the gray area of reality tells us they’re simply American ones.
The U.S. has a running theme in the Global South, and that is we support whichever leaders are willing to sidestep their own population’s self-determination and hand over their nation’s resources in exchange for power. If the people happen to elect someone who won’t play ball, we simply send the CIA to fund a right-wing monster. We help people rise to power to do our will, such as Augusto Pinochet in Chile, who was famous for torturing and murdering his political opponents, even killing 120 civilians by throwing them out of helicopters. This process causes widespread terror, pain, and destabilization in large regions. While we reap the benefits of these other nations’ wealth, many fall into very desperate situations likely to never come out. In fact, many of these same countries where the U.S. has intervened have become categorized as the world’s most dangerous countries to live in.
As I write these words, there is a military coup happening in Bolivia. Bolivian President Evo Morales has stepped down and retreated to Mexico after right-wing protestors backed by the police and military burned down his sister’s house and dragged a mayor down the street, cutting the mayor’s hair and spraypainting her red. Bolivia just happened to be planning to nationalize the largest supply of lithium in the world, but surely that has nothing to do with it (eyes rolling so hard that I am now permanently blind).
We don’t have all the details on Bolivia yet, but it does fit the pattern of imperialism we’ve seen in the region; and there are reports of the right-wing faction asking for help from the Trump Administration about six months before the coup. Many of the leaders of the Bolivian police and military received training in the U.S., including the infamous School of the Americas, a Cold War relic in Fort Benning, Ga., now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. We also know that Trump applauded the coup, calling it a “significant moment for democracy in the Western hemisphere,” and threatened Nicaragua and Venezuela while he was at it.
If you thought, like many, that Obama was a change in the violent history of U.S. policy in South America, recent history and track records say you’d be wrong. In 2009, Obama supported the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras with help from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Our imperialist efforts in these nations are as bipartisan as our efforts to imprison the refugees they created.
Making the situation far worse are the effects of climate change in these regions. For example, Venezuela (like many other nations) has received far less rainfall than what’s considered normal, causing crop failure, drought, and social unrest. Decades of imperialist economic devastation coupled with the ongoing climate crisis is the perfect storm for destabilization which will lead more people to migrate. Many of these people will turn towards the promise of America— “bring me your huddled masses”—but what they will likely find when they get here is another nightmare.
The thinking on the left and the right that has allowed our immigration policy to evolve into a system of concentration camps is rooted in extremist positions. The idea that the resources of Latin America are ours for the taking exists in both parties. The idea that it’s okay to imprison the very refugees we create through our imperialist and capitalist schemes in tortuous conditions is characteristic, in one degree or another, of both Republican and Democratic policies.
The liberal approach so far has simply been to do the same thing as the right, only quietly, so that it doesn’t offend the population with its ugliness. Obama’s approach was to keep America’s imperialist antics in action while speaking respectfully about immigrants and sneakily deporting millions of them, and as we discussed earlier, keeping thousands of immigrant children in cages. Trump’s approach has been to openly and unabashedly embrace the racism and conspiracy theory propaganda that the system requires. These approaches are two spheres of thought that exist outside of what should be considered acceptable human behavior. When confronted with extremist ideology, liberalism has not only failed to stop it, but has joined in. Now, it’s time for a more radical approach. Because what’s coming next, as these crises grow, is truly terrible.
This year, two separate mass shootings on different sides of the globe were linked by a common ideology: eco-fascism. The mass murders in El Paso, Texas, and Christchurch, New Zealand, were both carried out by men who cited overpopulation, consumerism, and ecological degradation as their motives. They also made references to identifying with white nationalist anti-immigration rhetoric. The targets of these attacks were Latinx immigrants in Texas and Muslim immigrants in New Zealand.
These two horrific acts are dark prophecies. Look at the cruelty our society currently tolerates as we tear children from their mothers and throw them in cages. Imagine how much more we will tolerate when climate change raises the stakes. The marriage of far-right ideology and climate realism has already directly led to two outright attempts of exterminating immigrant populations. What will happen when resources like food and fresh water become even more limited due to the climate crisis? First, we must dismantle the immigrant detention system through any means. We’ve seen the infrastructure grow through a liberal regime and now it is in the hands of an outspokenly white nationalist presidency.
We must replace liberal complacency with radical change in policy or we will fall into outright barbarism.