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Aviva Chomsky: The Criminalization of Immigrants from Clinton to Trump
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From his “big, fat, beautiful wall” to his travel bans, much of Donald Trump’s push to isolate America, like so much else in his program, has hit a series of ugly speed bumps. Not only won’t the Mexicans “pay” to build that much-promised wall, but even Congress is unlikely to do so, as its price tag soars by the week. Of course, much of what Trump wants to do when it comes to keeping “them” out, or throwing “them” out, has (as TomDispatch regular Aviva Chomsky writes today) already been done. Our last president wasn’t given the moniker of “deporter-in-chief” by his critics for nothing, and as for that wall, a far more sophisticated, layered version of it is already in place, complete with advanced sensors, cameras, drones, biometrics, spy towers, radar systems — much of the technology tested on America’s distant battlefields — as well as actual walls. Even if there isn’t a single old-fashioned wall along the full length of the U.S.-Mexican border, the construction of the layered “wall” that does exist began in the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency and its expansion has continued in a bipartisan fashion ever since.

And yet, even if Donald Trump never builds his wall, his attitude, whether toward Mexicans or Muslims, and the spirit of nativism and authoritarianism he’s released in those who police and bureaucratically control America’s borders, along with a bully-boy language that relies on phrases like “extreme vetting” and on demands to turn over personal passwords for electronic equipment at the border, will go a significant way toward walling this country in. Take tourism. Just the other day, Dubai’s government-owned airline, the largest in the Middle East, announced that it was significantly cutting back on its flights to the U.S. because interest among its customers had fallen radically and bookings were way down. (“The recent actions taken by the U.S. government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins, have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the U.S.”)

But it isn’t just Mexicans and Muslims, the obvious targets of Trump’s banning efforts and other restrictive urges, who are losing their urge to travel here; it’s true, too, of Asians and Europeans. According to travel companies, interest in voyaging to America, whether for vacation or business, is down across the planet. Searches for flights to the U.S. have, for instance, dropped by 13% in Great Britain, 35% in New Zealand, and 40% in China. Twenty-nine percent of Britons recently claimed that they were far less eager to holiday in America. (Globally — go figure — only Russian interest seems to be up.) And if, as Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has warned, the present visa-less travel from most European countries comes into question, watch out.


Already, it seems clear that tourism to the U.S. has taken a genuine hit — a drop, reports the Bureau of Economic Analysis, of 10.2% for last December, January, and February. According to Tourism Economics, 4.3 million visitors will decide not to come to the U.S. this year, a potential loss of $7.4 billion, and in 2018 those figures might rise to 6.3 million and $10.8 billion. (The “Trump slump” in tourism already underway will obviously also mean lost jobs for the jobs president.)

And don’t forget that, as with America’s wars, so with the walling in of America, there’s a distinct history here for President Trump to build on and, as Aviva Chomsky writes today, it’s a history that is remarkably, dismally bipartisan.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump, Illegal Immigration, Immigration 
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  1. Otto says:

    So all you care about is the tourism trade. How capitalistic of you – truly an ugly American.

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  2. Israel and Jordan have big, beautiful walls. Saudi Arabia is building a big beautiful wall. India has big, beautiful border fences to keep out Pakistanis and Bengalis (who are shot on sight if they try to cross).

    Macedonia has a beautiful border fence.

    Under Trujillo, the Dominicans machine-gunned Haitian border-jumpers. They still rigorously guard the border and strictly limit Haitian migration. (I bet most Americans don’t even realize the Dominican Republic is on the same island as Haiti, and that Dominicans don’t find their neighbors nearly as sympathetic as American aid workers do.)

    Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots don’t seem to be in a hurry to dismantle the Green Line. Recall that Greeks (and Armenians) have an unhappy history with Turkish migration.

    All of which is to say, borders are not some uniquely American, evil construct, and the rest of the world is not a prison where greedy Americans keep everybody else locked up.

    Borders are good. They’re for keeping out the people who can out-breed, out-thug, or out-vote you.

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  3. TG says:

    How dare we criminalize foreign nationals who are breaking our immigration laws, and also to a great extent our labor laws, tax laws, identity theft laws, motor vehicle laws, bank and wire transfer laws… Don’t people realize that laws should only be enforced if they don’t inconvenience the rich and their desire for ever cheaper labor?

    The only borders that should be enforced are those surrounding the estates of wealthy oligarchs such as Mark Zuckerberg, or politically privileged states such as Israel, Vatican City, and Saudi Arabia. Because ‘there shall be open borders’ is only for little people. And anybody who says different is a racist.

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  4. You are not an honest writer; in fact, you are a dishonest writer. Example: “…Donald Trump’s push to isolate America…”. That’s a very dishonest way of characterizing Trump’s desire to have the USA be sovereign on its own territory, to define for itself the notion of “citizenship”, and to control its own borders.

    I am a sometime student of Japanese history and culture. The Japanese controlled their borders because they wanted to maintain control over their own destiny. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, they allowed tobacco and firearms (about the only Western items they seem to have wanted) into Japan through the port of Nagasaki only. After American pressure following the visit of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, Japan signed the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854. Japan then started opening herself up to much greater foreign “influence”. This destabilized Japan so much that it led to the fall of the Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Since then, things have changed radically in Japan as she sought to find her footing in the modern world, often rather clumsily. Are the Japanese happier now? Their abysmal birthrate seems to say, “No”.

    The Quebec independence movement has as its objective, not necessarily “isolation” from Canada (that’s impossible) but the desire to be “Maistres chez nous“: “Masters in our own house”. What’s so wrong with that?

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  5. Gringo says:

    Aviva Chomsky has written praises of Cuba. Perhaps she should write about the criminalization of emigrants in Cuba. I have heard tell that the regime doesn’t treat kindly those Cubans who try to leave on a boat without permission from the regime.

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  6. I’m pleased that the above article points out that American presidents as far back as Clinton and as contemporaneous as Obama have done precisely, but perhaps with less vigor, what Mr. Trump is doing, enforcing the EXISTING IMMIGRATION LAWS that have been on the books for decades.

    As Judge Napolitano is pointed out, there’s absolutely nothing evil and new in the laws that Trump has decided to enforce and the only substantive change is that Trump has decided to enforce them in what appears to be their entirety.

    But to listen to the belly-aching left, you’d think Trump is acting outside of the law and outside of a well established precedent.


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  7. Gleimhart says:

    I’m not sure how to break it to the author, but the requirement to hand over passwords to computers, iPads and cellphones has been practiced at international borders for years now.

    The U.S. does it.

    The Europeans do it.

    Canada does it.

    Australia does it.

    Nothing new here. No one has the right to enter any country unless they are a citizen of that country, and when crossing over an international border, you are subject to search.

    America is not a flop house.

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  8. Svigor says:

    If I want Jewish advice on immigration policy, I’ll take Israel’s behavior instead.

    America should adopt immigration policies similar to Israel’s, except tailored to re-establish the demographic balance of 1964.

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