Trump and the far-right are using immigration as a distraction – the problems the working class are living with lay with the system we live under.
The countries of the world are more connected than ever before–especially in an economic sense. Every product that we buy comes from all corners of the world, and the world economy has led many countries to become interdependent on each other, one good example being the United States and Mexico. Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the US and Mexican economies are now deeply intertwined, but negative effects of the agreement have been felt in both countries–especially the latter.
Due to heavily subsidised American products being imported into Mexico, producers were forced to sell their products for less in order to compete, causing millions of Mexicans to lose any way of living comfortably. By 2005, Mexico’s minimum wage was 24 per cent less than in 1993, and by 2006 around two million farmers were forced to quit their jobs as they couldn’t make enough money to feed themselves.
That’s why–from 1990 to 2010–the amount of Mexicans living in the US increased from just under 4.3 million to 11.7 million: those affected by NAFTA could either stay in Mexico and starve, or flee to the United States and live. If the US were to send them back, what would they be sending them back to? The reason that most Mexicans leave for the US is that there aren’t many jobs left, and even then there aren’t many people wealthy enough to buy products that those with jobs produce. Mexico has been in a state of disarray ever since NAFTA was signed, and deporting illegal immigrants will only make that situation worse. If President Trump is happy to start deportations, is he prepared to have a crumbling state right across the southern US border?
Of course, Mr Trump has promised to build a wall on the border in order to keep immigrants from coming in–but to build a wall, you need construction workers. He may be horrified to find out, then, that in a 2013 study is was revealed that half of all construction workers in Texas were undocumented immigrants. Not only do those statistics show the huge amount of work that immigrants in the US do, but it also creates a sense of irony: immigrants will be hired to build a wall designed to keep them out in the first place.
If these immigrants are deported, then who will do the work that the immigrants did? American workers, sure, but these workers will be demanding higher wages, and if wages increase, prices of goods will increase too. The businesses that depend on immigrants will suffer, houses and apartments will lay empty, and banks will have fewer people to loan to. For such a huge promise during his campaign, Mr Trump doesn’t seem to have the slightest hint of what the implications of mass deportations could be.
Immigration is a trump card for right-wing parties when it comes to times of economic crisis – Ukip in the UK, the National Front in France, and Alternative for Germany have all capitalised on economic downturn by blaming immigration, despite the economic problems in all of these countries being radically different. These parties do not hold the key to a better economy, though, as the truth is that capitalism is not working for the majority of people of America, the UK, Germany, and France, among others.
In times of crisis like now, when the problems caused by the current system are evident, an increasing number of people say that the capitalist system we live under now is the problem: in a poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics last spring, a majority of respondents aged 18-29 said that they rejected capitalism. However, those benefitting from capitalism will come up with an explanation for the problems people are experiencing that take the system out of the equation–that’s what immigration is for. Immigration has always been used to distract the working class from the systemic issues of capitalism.
One prominent example from history is in Germany. The $33 billion in reparations that the country was forced to pay after World War 1 wrecked the economy, leading to an acute bout of hyperinflation in 1923. The Great Depression caused by 1929’s Wall Street Crash was too much for many Germans, and they got angry. Then along came Adolf Hitler, who said that Germany’s problems weren’t due to capitalism or businesses, but that it was the foreigners who had come into the country, and that Germany’s problems could be alleviated by simply getting rid of them. People got on board with this idea, but it’s safe to say that these solutions didn’t work.
That’s why immigration is such an effective scapegoat: it supposedly reveals the problem and therefore the solution–not to mention the fact that lies can be easily peddled concerning the topic. Immigrants are blamed for crime, even though a study by universities in Buffalo and Alabama concluded not only that immigrants don’t raise crime rates in cities, but that they often actually lower them. Still, these lies worked in Germany in the 1930s in the same way that they’re working in America and Europe right now.
Blaming problems on immigration deflects criticism of the system onto something out of the system, giving those afflicted with economic problems someone to hate–and therefore giving them a politician to vote for. Donald Trump won the election precisely because he offered change and a scapegoat to the desperate Americans who have almost nothing.
Politicians like Trump hide the fact that immigrants do as much good as they do bad. They contribute to local businesses by buying things, they lower crime rates in run-down neighbourhoods and the many international students attending American universities help to keep them afloat. Sure, they can do bad things, but so does everybody else. Every race, gender, and ethnicity is a mixed bag, so to blame systemic problems on immigration is wrong by a long shot.
Whether immigrants stay or leave, the systemic problems of capitalism that caused the many financial crashes in our history–from 1929 to 2008–will remain. Internationalism and solidarity with immigrants are key if we are to survive the onslaught of the far-right.
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