Politicking is often treated as a game where parties make calculated moves to change balances in power. This approach uses vulnerable groups as political pawns. It has implications far beyond what the unempathetic and amoral politician can envision.
Since the conception of the U.S., different ethnic groups have been stigmatized as a threat to national security. This propaganda spins American human rights violations as magnanimity. One of the more recent groups exploited by this nefarious tactic are those living south of the U.S. border.
The two dominant U.S. political parties have for a long time used Latin Americans as a stepping block to dunk more political points with the American populace. Politicians will present a “boogie man,” supposedly violent undocumented immigrants, and strike it down, leaving constituents in awe of the politician’s valor and commitment to the country.
This politician will then fade behind the curtains and recreate and reinforce institutions for self-gain at the expense of the American middle class and poor. Then, xenophobic rhetoric will shift blame onto black and brown people, concealing the politician from any justice.
Politicians often use the term “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants. Ph.D candidate at University of California Berkeley Joel Sati prefers the term “illegalized.” In an interview with the PodCast Citations Needed he said, “I think that the framework of the legalization allows us to do this dynamic ongoing process by which people no matter their status, are put in to a relation to the state where they are considered weak in some important capacity.”
Illegalized immigrants have not committed any sin, but been victims of hellish circumstances. Their illegalization is because the U.S. sets the parameters of acceptability specifically not to accept them.
Not only has the U.S. illegalized Latin Americans, but it his pillaged, plundered and decimated any viable circumstances for Latin Americans. During the Cold War, the U.S. used the threat of communism as a cover to support fascist regimes in South America.
This included U.S. support for the overthrow of former Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in favor of a military dictatorship under Carlos Castillo Armas; fervent support for the fascist Batista regime in Cuba; and mass atrocities committed by supported Contras in Nicaragua while the U.S. was mining their harbors.
In fact, former president Ronald Reagan's administration was condemned by the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity in Nicaragua and the U.S. was ordered to pay reparations. Of course, U.S. relationships with international courts were created on the basis that no rulings can be enforced, so the U.S. continues to not be held accountable. The war on Latin America wasn’t just war, and it certainly wasn’t just partisan. In 1994, former President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade American. The trade caused the increase of exported subsidized U.S. corn and Mexico could not compete.
This led to over a million Mexican farmers losing their jobs, along with 1.4 million other agriculture workers, creating a massive refugee crisis. American corporations also established close to the U.S.-Mexico border to scare Mexican workers from unionizing by threatening them with imported jobs.
Clinton knew the crisis was about to occur, so he militarized the border in “Operation GateKeeper” in 1994, much like President Donald Trump is demonizing the migrant caravan. Many rightfully criticize Trump’s atrocious policies toward the border, but are silent about similar policies by Democratic presidents.
Former President Barack Obama had the most deportations out of any president since deportations have been tracked. Border agencies were also putting children in cages during the Obama presidency, although not at the same rate.
With that in mind, what does fair immigration policy look like? First, the U.S. must pay reparations for the destruction of Latin America. Next, the U.S. has a moral obligation to help the people who are escaping the hellish aftermath of U.S. intervention. Finally, the U.S. must stop interfering with democratic Latin American governments.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is constantly depicted as a dictator in Western media and was threatened by the U.S. when he won a democratic election with about 67.8 percent of the popular vote.
If the U.S. actually lives up to its title as the moral paragon of the world, it will take effort to clean up the mess it created in Latin America. Only then can free trade agreements stop being covert attempts at imperialism. Only then can we move toward the elusive greater society, where countries live in harmony and work together, rather than exploit each other on the behest of ego-maniacal leaders.
Soheil Saneei is a 20-year old biological engineering sophomore from Metairie, Louisiana.