Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Democrats’ immigration agenda: Bolder, but not bold enough

Yakima Nation members march with immigrants. Photo: David Bacon/Capital & Main

By David L. Wilson, MR Online

September 23, 2020

The immigration plank in this year’s Democratic Party platform is a reminder that real immigration reform isn’t going to happen without serious grassroots organizing.

The platform, which the Democratic National Convention approved on August 18, is largely based on a 110-page document produced by six policy task forces that former vice president Joe Biden and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders set up in May. According to the New York Times, the Democrats were seeking “to assemble a new governing agenda…far bolder than anything the party establishment has embraced before.”[…]

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Anti-Immigrant Policies Are Not Only Cruel, They Also Have an Economic Cost

Legalization and a fair work visa program would raise wages for many U.S.-born workers as well. This wage increase would in itself provide an important stimulus to an economy facing its worst crisis since the 1930s.

By David L. Wilson, Truthout
August 19, 2020
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agency that processes visas, green cards and citizenship applications, claims it’s going broke. USCIS officials are threatening to furlough some 13,400 employees as early as August 30, after itially planning the measure for August 3. The furloughs would add to what was already a huge backlog in application processing, creating a disaster for tens of thousands of immigrant applicants. As many as 126,000 people already approved for citizenship may not be naturalized in time to register for the November elections.

Trump administration officials blame the agency’s financial problems on the COVID-19 pandemic...

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U.S.-Mexico border fence in Playas de Tijuana, BC. Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Trump’s Guest Worker Ban Sparks New Focus on Immigrant Push for Labor Overhaul

“Most media coverage has treated the issue as a choice between bringing guest workers in and keeping them out. But there are better options.”

By Jane Guskin and David L. Wilson, Truthout
July 15, 2020
President Trump’s decision to suspend the majority of U.S. guest worker programs for at least six months, announced in a June 22 proclamation, has provoked a lot of debate.

For Mark Krikorian, who heads the immigration-restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, the suspension is “a bold move … to protect American jobs,” while South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham warns it will have “a chilling effect on our economic recovery.” [...]

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Construction worker in NYC. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Trump, asylum, and the Honduran drug traffickers

There doesn’t seem to be much public outrage about the blatant hypocrisy of Trump using the Navy to threaten Maduro while bonding with Hernández on Twitter.

By David L. Wilson, MR Online
May 9, 2020
On April 30 the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it was charging Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, a former head of the Honduran National Police, with “conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.” According to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, the ex-police chief carried out some of his crimes “on behalf of convicted former Honduran congressman Tony Hernández and his brother,” Honduran president Juan Carlos Hernández.

This is the third time in less than a year that the U.S. government has linked the Honduran chief executive to drug traffickers.[…]

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Add captionDEA agents with Manuel Noriega after 1989 invasion. Photo: public domain

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Trump’s Immigration Suspension Doesn’t Prevent Unemployment or COVID-19 Spread

The new policy wouldn’t have more than a minimal impact on joblessness in the United States, even if immigration actually determined employment levels — and it generally doesn’t.

David L. Wilson, Truthout
April 30, 2020
Late on the evening of April 20, President Trump tweeted that he was temporarily suspending immigration to the United States. For justification he cited what he called “the attack from the Invisible Enemy” — that is, COVID-19 — and “the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens.”

Government officials had to scramble to make sense of Trump’s tweet, but by April 22, the White House staff had tacked together a presidential proclamation for Trump to sign.[...]

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Volunteers bring groceries to immigrants on lockdown. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Trump Welcomes More Guest Workers Amid Crisis While Rejecting Asylum Seekers

Seasonal workers in California. Photo: Davis Turner/Tribune News Service/Getty Images
This type of exploitation hurts all U.S. workers, both jobless citizens and underpaid foreign workers, but the situation is rarely discussed in the media or in political debates.

By David L. Wilson, Truthout
April 11, 2020
Two recent news items neatly sum up U.S. immigration policy during the COVID-19 crisis.

Asylum seekers are now being turned away at the border without even a chance to make their asylum claims; the excuse for the new policy is a March 20 order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, officials say the administration may expand the recruitment of temporary agricultural workers. The purpose would be “to get enough migrant labor to keep the food supply moving” while the crisis drags on.[...]

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Friday, March 6, 2020

Trump, Asylum, and Honduras’s “Narco-State”

President Hernández and U.S. diplomat socialize. Photo: Casa Presidencial
On March 3 the U.S. government formally charged Honduran citizen Geovanny Daniel Fuentes Ramírez “with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and related weapons offenses involving the use and possession of machineguns and destructive devices.” Federal agents had arrested Fuentes Ramírez two days earlier at Miami International Airport; the charges were filed in the Southern District of New York.

While the case didn’t get much media attention in the United States, it provides a fascinating insight into the connections between our government’s foreign policy, its approach to asylum, and its “war on drugs.”

The case links the current president of Honduras, the National Party’s Juan Orlando Hernández, to a major drug trafficking operation. According to U.S. prosecutors, in or about 2013 Fuentes Ramírez paid Hernández some $25,000 “in exchange for protection from further interventions by law enforcement” against his drug trafficking business. Hernández, who began his first term in 2014, also “agreed to facilitate the use of Honduran armed forces personnel as security” for Fuentes Ramírez’s operations, according to the charges, and he instructed the alleged drug smuggler to report directly” to his brother, Tony Hernández, “for subsequent drug trafficking activities.”

The “End of Asylum”

President Hernández denies any connection to drug trafficking, but the evidence against him keeps piling up.

Last fall a New York jury convicted Hernández’s brother Tony on four counts related to cocaine smuggling. Prosecutors charged that Tony, a former Congress member for the National Party, “participated in the importation of almost 200,000 kilograms of cocaine, used heavily armed security including members of the Honduran National Police, and coordinated two drug-related murders.” In addition, the president’s brother “funneled millions of dollars of drug proceeds to National Party campaigns to impact Honduran presidential elections in 2009, 2013, and 2017.”

One of the bribes Tony Hernández forwarded was some $1 million that notorious Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín Guzmán Loera (“El Chapo”) allegedly earmarked for the current president during the 2013 elections.

The U.S. Department of Justice clearly agrees with the assessment of many Hondurans that their country has become a “narco-state.” So we might expect a strong condemnation of President Hernández from the U.S. government, which has spent billions of dollars over the past fifty years fighting drug trafficking in Latin America. And surely the U.S. asylum system would give special attention to the thousands of Hondurans who in recent years have fled from drug gangs that the U.S. government says operate under protection from Honduran armed forces personnel.

The Trump administration’s reaction has been exactly the opposite.

The present U.S. government seems to have no problems with the Honduran president and his apparent drug connections. In fact, just one day after Hernández’s brother was convicted in New York, U.S. interim ambassador to Honduras Colleen Hoey was photographed laughing with President Hernández himself.

As for Hondurans seeking asylum, the Trump White House has slammed the door in their faces: current immigration policies add up to what several analysts have declaredthe end of asylum.” An important element in this is a safe third country agreement Honduras made with the United States last September. Far from accepting refugees from Honduras’s drug gangs, the United States is now sending the refugees to nearby Guatemala—and plans to ship asylum seekers from other countries into danger in Honduras.

Bipartisanship in Action

The Trump administration gets a lot of criticism from many quarters, but we haven’t heard a lot about these particular outrages. There’s a reason: U.S. support for rightwing Central American governments is a longstanding bipartisan policy, one which doesn’t get much pushback from the corporate media.

In the case of Honduras, the Obama administration gave de facto support to a June 2009 coup against elected president Manuel Zelaya and then allowed the new coup-installed government to hold a highly suspect presidential election that November—the first of the three elections Tony Hernández was accused of funding with drug money. Following Obama’s example, in December 2017 the Trump administration certified the even more questionable election of President Hernández to an unconstitutional second term. Establishment media like the New York Times and the Washington Post largely ignored or downplayed these developments.

This should be a reminder that simply removing Donald Trump from office won’t end human rights violations in the U.S. immigration system. Trump’s immigration policies are definitely worse than earlier policies, but that doesn’t mean the earlier policies weren’t bad. Truly effective immigration reform is going to be impossible without fundamental changes in this country’s foreign policies.

Correction, 3/9/20: The item originally indicated that the safe third country agreements with El Salvador and Guatemala were already being implemented.

A slightly different version of this post appears on the NYU Press blog.