Every day the republican governors of Texas, Greg Abbott, and Florida, Ron DeSantis, eagerly announce that they are sending people generically labeled as migrants to what are known as sanctuary cities. The corporate media report that thousands of people have been convinced to board buses to New York City or Washington DC or Sacramento or Chicago or even chartered flights to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. What they don’t explain is who these migrants are and why their status is highly problematic and a function of imperialist foreign policy.
Republicans rail against what are called sanctuary cities and imply that federal law doesn’t apply in these places or that undocumented people get some sort of special deal. However, the term sanctuary city doesn’t really mean very much. In New York it means that the city government and its employees will not assist in the deportation process. It does not mean that no one is ever deported or that federal rules don’t apply. Undocumented people are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other benefits only under very limited circumstances and applying in a sanctuary city doesn’t change that fact. The media cannot seem to disseminate this easily provable information and people in this country are whipped into a frenzy over non-issues.
But there is a larger issue at work here that also goes unaddressed. The people taken to Martha’s Vineyard have made legal requests for asylum, which may be granted because of U.S. policy against their home country of Venezuela. Migrants from nations targeted by the U.S. are automatically eligible for asylum. In this hemisphere Venezuelans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans are likely to be granted asylum because the U.S. doesn’t like their governments. Ukrainians are favored because the U.S. supports their government’s role in attacking Russia and they are also given asylum when they arrive at the border. Some 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived here since February 2022.
Conversely, Haitians are routinely deported. Their country is in worse shape than any of the others mentioned and entirely because of U.S. interference in their sovereign rights. In 2010 the Obama administration even ordered Haiti to hold an election twice because they didn’t like the initial result. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously pressured the Haitian government to lower the already low minimum wage there. Now the U.S. orders the current illegitimate president Ariel Henry to enact austerity programs that create misery. The U.S. coups, UN occupations and other interventions have made Haiti unlivable.
But the Joe Biden administration has no sympathy for Haitians fleeing the problems of U.S making. As of February 2022 more than 19,000 Haitians were deported in the first year of Biden’s term. That figure is more than three times the number deported in the last three administrations combined.
Not only do Abbott and DeSantis lie about who they are sending around the country, but no one in the media calls them out on their subterfuge. They are scoring points by claiming to send undocumented people when they are in fact sending people who under international law have a legal right to request asylum in the U.S.
The corporate media are complicit because they are joined at the hip with the Biden administration. Sloppy reporting is not a problem for them. Pointing out the inherent injustice of U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela might damage precious connections and white house access. Any responsibility for informing readers and viewers doesn’t matter and journalistic ethics go out the window so that the media can be slipshod and curry favor simultaneously.
The topic of immigration is very complicated but serious issues can’t be addressed if one party is devoted to opposing migration as a fund raising and vote getting strategy. Of course, republicans are also wedded to the idea of fighting socialist governments in this hemisphere and say nothing about the people arriving here because they support these policies. Abbott and DeSantis would have a lot of explaining to do if they admitted that they support giving asylum to Venezuelans while also behaving as if they don’t.
Democrats on the other hand talk out of both sides of their mouths. They may say they are more compassionate but in the end they are no different from the republicans, as we see in Biden’s deportations to Haiti. Bill Clinton made all non-citizens eligible for deportation if they commit felonies that are all too often victimless, minor crimes. Every democratic president built portions of the border wall that became identified with Donald Trump, including Joe Biden who was sold as the “harm reduction” candidate.
There is no harm reduction under imperialism. Inevitably it favors the people of one country over another, and humans are reduced to being used to further U.S. foreign policy interests. The duopoly can’t resolve immigration issues for the same reason they don’t resolve anything else. They serve the needs of the oligarchy and virtue signal to various constituency groups whose needs aren’t met by them either. People migrating for a variety of reasons become tools to be used at election time and not as humans whose needs can and should be addressed.