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Rights + Justice

The Ethnic Cleansing of America

Trump’s plan to deport 330,000 people a disaster for them, their home countries and the US.

Crawford Kilian 15 Jan

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

The announcement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Monday was clear.

“Today, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced her determination that termination of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador was required pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. To allow for an orderly transition, she has determined to delay the termination for 18 months. The designation will terminate on Sept. 9, 2019.”

This means, according to the New York Times, that almost 200,000 Salvadorans have a year and a half to get out of the U.S., or wangle resident status, before they’re deported. They have 192,000 American-born children who by definition are U.S. citizens. The Center for Migration Studies estimates that 88 per cent of the affected Salvadorans have jobs, and many have mortgages.

Their remittances to families in El Salvador are an important part of that country’s economy. About 17 per cent of El Salvador’s economy in 2016 was based on $4.6 billion in remittances.

El Salvador itself seems appalled by this measure: one newspaper headlined a report “Everything is collapsing, Salvadorans in U.S. say about the end of the TPS.” Parents worried about their teenage sons being victimized by gangs. One father was quoted as saying, “Staying in the U.S. for us is a matter of life or death.”

Another story in the same paper reported that Canada is already taking steps to prevent illegal Salvadoran migrants from crossing our border.

Malpractice on a hemispheric scale

Think about this. About 200,000 persons will be forced to resettle in a poor and violent country. Their children born in the U.S. will be left alone, or return with them. (And that’s not counting the Haitians, Hondurans, Nicaraguans and Dreamers who also face deportation to what Trump himself calls “shithole countries.”)

This is precisely what the 19th century German doctor-politician Rudolf Virchow meant when he said “Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale.” The Trump government is now conducting public health malpractice on a hemispheric scale.

The World Health Organization’s country page for El Salvador tells us that the country has about 6.1 million people — not that much bigger than B.C. Salvadoran babies born in 2015 have a life expectancy of 69 years for males and 78 years for females. Their probability of dying between the ages of 15 and 60, per 1,000 population, is 262 for males and 105 for females. The country spends US$565 per capita on health care.

Go to WHO’s World Health Statistics 2017 and you’ll find more worrying news about El Salvador: 54 maternal deaths per 100,000 births; 16.8 deaths per 1,000 children under five; 43 TB cases per 100,000; 24.1 health professionals per 100,000 (the US has 117.8); a stunting rate of 13.6 per cent among children under five; and a homicide rate of 63.2 per 100,000 — exceeded in the Americas only by Honduras’s 85.7.

Now imagine this wretched country of 6.1 million absorbing up to 400,000 newcomers — half of them speaking little or no Spanish — who will need health care, education, shelter and work.

Being sensible people, the Salvadoran-American deportees will not likely stay in El Salvador — if they ever arrive. First, they’ll fight this in the U.S. courts, and could well win. If they do lose, they’ll go underground, or head for Canada. Those who are deported will head north again, perhaps to Mexico but more likely back to the U.S. They will find travelling companions in thousands of deported Haitians, Hondurans and Nicaraguans, fighting for their lives like the migrants struggling to reach Europe.

Along the way, the deportees will stress the health systems of Central America and Mexico, while offering dazzling new opportunities for enriching members of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, human traffickers, crooked cops and corrupt politicians. It will be yet another chronicle of deaths (and ruined lives) foretold.

A self-caused problem

Ironically, the U.S. itself helped to create the conditions in Central America that provoked the floods of refugees from the region. At least since 1954, when the CIA funded the overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically-elected president Jacobo Arbenz, U.S. interventions have prevented the development of democracy in the region.

In the case of El Salvador, the Americans backed a military dictatorship in the 1980s, leading to a brutal civil war and, according to New Yorker journalist Jonathan Blitzer, the flight of two million Salvadorans (a third of the population) to the U.S.

The U.S. then deported a lot of Salvadoran criminals from American prisons back to their homeland in the 1990s, triggering another wave of gang violence (and emigration) that persists to this day. The Americans may have recalled Fidel Castro’s 1980 prank of briefly allowing free migration to Florida — while exporting his hardcore criminals, the Marielitos, from Cuban prisons to the U.S.

Poor countries with weak social institutions are in no position to deal with violence on such a scale. The U.S., for that matter, seems incapable of managing its own domestic violence (over 30,000 gun deaths per year), regardless of its own strong institutions.

Still, a third of a million migrants have found a haven in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status, which President Donald Trump is now rapidly dismantling. For Salvadorans, the status was introduced after a devastating 2001 earthquake led the U.S. government to declare it unsafe to return people there.

Another 800,000 Dreamers shelter under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Most Americans are keenly aware of the impossibility of deporting about one million people, many of them American citizens. At an average cost of $10,854 per deportee, the cost would be in the billions — not to mention the tax revenue and consumer spending and labour force lost by their departure.

It wouldn’t even improve the U.S. jobs picture. The 1930s deportation of 400,000 Mexicans who were thought to be taking jobs from “real” Americans only hurt the economy more.

Deportation: ethnic cleansing by other means

But we have seen how casually Trump has ignored the plight of millions of American citizens in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Trump and his supporters don’t like people who don’t look them, whether blacks, Latinos, Asians or Arabs. They’d rather have a white majority, with non-whites reduced to a minority doing chores to make whites feel superior. Ethnic cleansing is the way to achieve such a majority, and the Latinos are a start.

Canada depends on staying on the right side of the U.S. When the U.S. government is on the wrong side, we are placed in a very awkward position. In the long term, we benefit most from a reasonably civilized U.S. In the short term, Canadian politicians have to make the best deals they can with whatever damn fool happens to be in charge — Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump. (Obama made mistakes, but he’s no damn fool.)

Even so, friendship sometimes demands blunt talk. Trump has thrown America’s century-old reputation down the shithole in less than a year, and harmed his own country more than the poor countries he despises. If Canada can tell Congress and the state governors that we won’t tolerate such an attitude, we might help protect the Salvadorans, Haitians and others now at the mercy of the most powerful bigot in the world — at least until American voters send Trump and the Republicans down the shithole next November.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Politics

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