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April 16, 2019

Clash of demographics

Opinion

April 16, 2019

Nafta opened up Mexico’s markets to a flood of cheap US corn and a wave of US investments. Mexican farm and other bankruptcies followed. The resultant desperate flight of Mexican farmers and their families ran into increased border security with the result that immigration to the US from Mexico increased and deaths along the border skyrocketed.

In that same year, California Governor Pete Wilson pushed an anti-immigrant law called, Proposition 187. This proposition was accompanied by a massive campaign to convince the public that immigrants represented a dire threat to the economic well being of the state. To deal with the logistical problem of rounding up large numbers of immigrants, Prop 187 proposed to turn teachers and medical workers into unofficial agents of the immigration service. Under its provisions teachers, doctors, nurses and paramedics would be obliged to turn in lists of names of students, patients, and so on, who they suspected of being undocumented.

Proposition 187 passed by a large margin in California, but it was a spectacular failure. In the lead up to the election thousands of teachers, doctors, nurses and others, signed cards pledging to go to prison rather than abide by the provisions of the law. Proposition 187 woke up a generation of youth, especially in the Latino community, leading to mass school walkouts and the largest demonstrations in California history. After passing in the election in 1994 the California Supreme court ruled Proposition 187, unconstitutional. More than unconstitutional, it was unenforceable.

In the years since Proposition 187, Nafta and the construction of hundreds of miles of border walls, the opening of hundreds of immigrant detention centers, and the addition of thousands more border patrol agents, the influx of immigrants has changed the ethnic landscape of the US, especially its large cities. This has awakened nativist alarm and non-stop cries of crisis at the border. It has intensified, not undermined, the clash over demographics.

The rise of Donald Trump is, to a degree, a reflection of the intensity of US capitalism’s demographic dilemma. Like those before him, Trump is finding this problem defies even the most vicious demagoguery. Unlike those before him, Trump is overtly using the demographic issue to build up a white supremacist base and promote a fascist program. He openly brags that he is capable of carrying out “solutions” even more brutish than have previously been attempted.

In the run up to the election in 2016 Trump referred various times to Operation Wetback and praised its goals and methods. During one primary debate Trump praised one of Operation Wetbacks uglier actions – that of deporting immigrants deep into Mexico regardless of their place of origin. Like Herbert Brownell, Trump has threatened the use of deadly force, including the threat to “machine gun” immigrants at the border.

Trump stands out as the most overt and full throttle xenophobe and nativist to occupy the White House in many years. He has made the centerpiece of his whole fascist agenda the resolution of the “problem” of immigrants and immigration. He has shown willingness to take the most heartless of actions, the separation of children from their parents. Yet in the last six months the pace of immigration into the US across the southern border is greater than any time in the past ten years.

Trump’s threat to “close the border” and to – in the revealing words of Fox News – cut off aid to those (sic) “three Mexican countries”, reflects both determination and desperateness.

Trump backed off his threat to close the border. The chaos it would have unleashed was a direct threat to the economy. It might also have forced the truthless fanatics still riding high with their Trumpian hero to grapple with the fact that the “Greatness” of “America” owes much to merciless plunder of Mexico and Mexicans.

It’s one of the Colossus’ prominent feet of clay that, not only is the US food supply largely dependent on the labor of Mexicans workers here in the US – and increasingly indigenous workers from southern Mexico and Central American – but it is also dependent on food grown in Mexico. The low wage labor of Mexico’s maquiladoras (owned by US and other corporations) which Nafta helped expand, is instrumental in maintaining profitability in the U.S. auto and other industries as well. Thus a cutoff of the parts produced by Mexico’s maquila workers might call into question Trump’s blusterous lies that NAFTA has had a negative influence on the US economy.

Shutting down the border might have brought an inconvenient reality very much to the fore. Instead of a “day without Mexicans” it would be a “day without Mexico”, and contrary to Trump’s intentions, might reveal signs of weakness and vulnerability in the American imperium.

This, of course, is not something the MAGA King wants his loyal subjects to face. It appears that his only practical card to play at this point is his willingness to persecute the most vulnerable; Central Americans driven from their homelands by the hand of US capitalism.

It is a sobering reality, that while Operation Wetback ultimately failed, it caused enormous suffering. Trump and those who back him, are capable of carrying out something as vicious or more.

Nor has Trump shown any inclination to be restrained by legal precedents. On the contrary he is openly promoting defiance of legal protections for asylum seekers and other immigrants. It is therefore essential that we rise to the occasion and prevent this from happening.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced Central Americans and others will continue to come to the US, altering its demographics in the very way that the xenophobes can’t live with and the system can’t prosper without.

In late June, 2018 a massive mobilization of protest erupted in hundreds of US cities in response to the separation of children from their parents at the border. Such a response is very much needed again!

The nativist anger and dismay that Trump plays on, encourages and amplifies, will contribute to a push for punishment and persecution of immigrants. It’s on us to take a stand in their defense!

Trump has, to some degrees painted himself into a corner on immigration. It is a corner imperialism finds itself in. But whether he is trapped there, and begins to unravel, or creates further division, chaos, pain, and a further consolidation of a fascist program, and a moral hell, really depends on enlightened action of the people. It means not relying on electoral politics; any hope of help from one section or another of the guardians of the profit system will only come by determined action of the people.

There is a real need for outcry, for acting on the truth, for a moral commitment to a broader humanity, for exposing the ugly Trumpian rot in the dark heart of the empire – not only in words, but also in actions. Including actions in the streets!

This article has been excerpted from: ‘The Border, Trumpian Madness and the Clash of Demographics’.

Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

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