[Marxism] Argentina’s Trump-Like Immigration Order Rattles South America

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 5 14:50:52 MST 2017

NY Times, Feb. 5 2017
Argentina’s Trump-Like Immigration Order Rattles South America

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina is so used to celebrating immigration as a 
cornerstone of society that a 19th-century saying — to govern is to 
populate — remains in use to this day.

But in an abrupt shift coinciding with the immigration restrictions put 
in place by the Trump administration, President Mauricio Macri has 
issued a decree curbing immigration to Argentina, with his government 
declaring that newcomers from poorer countries in Latin America bring crime.

The measures announced by Mr. Macri in recent days made it much easier 
to deport immigrants and restrict their entry, prompting irate 
comparisons to President Trump and igniting a fierce debate over 

“A decree like this scares people,” said Arfang Diedhiou, 33, a 
Senegalese immigrant who runs his own clothing store here in the 
capital, Buenos Aires. “It came out just after what Trump did, a 
coincidence that seems very strange to me.”

Argentina’s president, the son of an immigrant, has echoed some of Mr. 
Trump’s “America First” theme, making it clear that his “first concern” 
should be “caring for Argentines, caring for ourselves.”

“We cannot continue to allow criminals to keep choosing Argentina as a 
place to commit offenses,” Mr. Macri said during a news conference.

His decree has also rekindled criticism of his ties to the American 
president, whom he calls a friend. In the 1980s, Mr. Macri worked with 
his father, an Italian immigrant and industrial magnate, on a real 
estate project in New York that the family ended up selling to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Macri’s immigration measures, while not as far-reaching as Mr. 
Trump’s decision to halt refugees from around the world and freeze visas 
from seven predominantly Muslim nations, are raising diplomatic tensions 
in the region. Some South American leaders are attacking what they view 
as an attempt to mimic Mr. Trump’s immigration policies and nurture 
xenophobic sentiment.

“Brothers, Latin American presidents, we can’t follow the immigration 
policies of the North,” President Evo Morales of Bolivia said.

But opinion polls in Argentina showed widespread support for limiting 
immigration, and some say the new decree does not go far enough. One 
right-wing congressman is even calling for a wall to be built on the 
border with Bolivia.

Claudio Suárez, 65, a worker at a bakery in Buenos Aires, called the 
immigration curbs “fantastic.”

“Nobody wants scum to come in from other countries,” he said. “Many 
foreigners come here because health services and education are free. The 
law should be even stronger.”

Argentina’s history has been written by waves of immigration over the 
decades. After 19th-century wars of conquest killed off many indigenous 
people, the authorities encouraged millions of immigrants to come, 
largely from Europe, to help populate and develop the country.

More recently, governments welcomed newcomers from Latin America, Asia 
and Africa, opening a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of 
immigrants and ensuring their access to public schools and health care.

Officials in Mr. Macri’s government, which took over in 2015 by vowing 
to ease polarization and roll back the economic policies of his leftist 
predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, contend that they are still 
upholding Argentina’s openness to immigrants.

“Everyone should remain calm, because Argentina will continue to be a 
hospitable and open country,” said Horacio García, Argentina’s top 
immigration official.

The new immigration decree says it is focused on fighting crime, arguing 
that 22 percent of inmates in the federal penitentiary system are 
foreigners. (When all of the country’s prisons are taken into account 
the figure is closer to 6 percent.)

The decree specifically mentions “organized crime” as a reason for the 
crackdown, but it expands the offenses that justify expulsion or blocked 
entry to include any crime that could lead to a prison sentence. Many 
worry that immigrants can now be expelled for minor crimes, like 
blocking a road during a protest.

Immigrants hoping to fight a deportation order will have less than a 
week to file appeals. Previous measures granted 30 days to prepare a 
defense and the right to a government lawyer.

“Immigrants are hanging by a thread because anything could be cause for 
deportation,” said Gabriela Liguori, director of the Argentina 
Commission for Refugees and Migrants, an immigrant rights group.

But the immigration official, Mr. García, said deportations “will only 
focus on serious crimes.” He contended that the measure was necessary 
because Argentina had become “defenseless to criminals from other 

Faced with criticism, officials in Mr. Macri’s government have had to 
make it clear that they are ruling out building a Trump-like wall on the 
Bolivian border.

“The problem isn’t immigration, but drug trafficking and contraband,” 
Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said after the Bolivian authorities 
questioned why she was publicly singling out Bolivian, Paraguayan and 
Peruvian immigrants for scrutiny.

Despite Mr. Macri’s longstanding connection to the American president, 
Mr. Trump’s victory put the government here in an awkward spot. After 
all, Mr. Macri had made no secret that he was rooting for Hillary 
Clinton, saying that Mr. Trump was focused on building walls.

But then Mr. Macri seemed to draw on his ties to Mr. Trump, becoming one 
of the first Latin American leaders to speak with him after the American 
presidential election.

The call was quickly mired in controversy. A prominent Argentine 
journalist claimed that Mr. Trump had used the occasion to request Mr. 
Macri’s help in obtaining regulatory approval for a real estate project 
in Buenos Aires. Spokesmen for both leaders denied the assertion, though 
it emerged that Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who had no security 
clearance, had joined the phone call.

Argentine authorities later confirmed that the Trump venture did not 
have the permits needed to begin construction. But in the end, plans for 
a Trump tower in Buenos Aires were called off as Mr. Trump came under 
pressure over potential conflicts of interest involving pending 
international deals.

Critics say the new restrictions focus on poor immigrants to distract 
attention from the economy, which remains sluggish more than a year 
after Mr. Macri rose to power promising that market-friendly policies 
would usher in growth.

Scrutinizing immigrants at times of stress is nothing new in Argentina, 
with the authorities long praising the country’s history of receiving 
European immigrants while portraying immigration from neighboring 
countries as less desirable, said Guillermo Kantor, a sociologist who 
specializes in immigration.

In the late 1990s, President Carlos Menem’s government similarly cracked 
down on immigrants by associating them with street crime. In 2014, Mrs. 
Kirchner, the former president, threatened to expel foreigners who 
committed crimes in an overhaul of the penal code even after her 
government had legalized the irregular status of many immigrants.

Other parts of Latin America are also grappling with bursts of 
anti-immigration sentiment. With his nation suffering broad economic 
declines, Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, ordered a crackdown on 
Colombian immigrants in 2015, forcing many to flee across the border. An 
influx of Haitian immigrants to Chile is fueling a debate there over 
racism and discrimination.

On the streets of Buenos Aires, immigrants had varying reactions to Mr. 
Macri’s decree. Jesús Oriona, 45, a Bolivian who moved to Argentina as a 
teenager, said the government was simply “throwing the blame at immigrants.”

But Maria Alejandra Alviarez, 39, a nurse from Venezuela who moved here 
a year ago and works in a health food store, said Argentina had been 
“too free and open” before the decree.

“Macri’s not saying people can’t migrate, and qualified people like me 
will still be able to come here,” she said.

Still others here contend that the shift is strategic, seeking 
short-term political points by blaming foreigners for ills in Argentine 
society ahead of legislative elections this year.

“Of course, we have our share of xenophobia, and now, in the glow of 
Donald Trump, they want to dilute the fact that a large share of us are 
children or grandchildren of immigrants,” said Raúl Kollman, 68, a radio 
show host whose mother emigrated illegally to Argentina to flee the Nazis.

Frederick Bernas contributed reporting.

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