The Struggle Against the Asylum Ban and US Imperialism in Latin America

By Cristóbal Cavazos, published on Socialist Action, May 29, 2023

The new asylum ban that the Biden administration announced on May 11 in the wake of ending of Title 42, is cruel, inhumane and shows the reactionary character of the Biden administration’s immigration policy even as Biden continues traditional US policies aimed at subjecting Latin America to US neo-colonial control.

Human Rights Watch noted: “Biden’s new Title 8 plan combines elements from Trump policies, including Title 42 [a hyper-expedited deportation program that scrapped due process abuses when expulsions took effect] and a third country transit ban, found unlawful by two federal courts under the Trump administration.”

National Immigrant Justice Center Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy responded to Biden’s new policies as follows:

“With this final rule, the Biden administration has officially abandoned its commitment and obligation to rebuild the U.S. asylum system and uphold our country’s historic commitment to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution. At a time when we should be preparing to celebrate the end of an inhumane mass expulsion policy that turned away people who arrived at our border seeking protection, we are instead bracing for a new set of cruel policies that will endanger lives and punish those who have come to the United States in search of safety.”

Asylum is a guaranteed human right for those fleeing persecution, political suffering and devastating economic conditions. And indeed, the United States has created lots of suffering and devastation with punishing sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, countries from where a substantial number of refugees are coming today. In the words of country music star Willie Nelson, “My enemy is not the refugee but the ones who made you a refugee.”

No to sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection registered more than 2.4 million border encounters with migrants at the Southwest border – a 37 percent jump from the 1.7 million recorded in FY 2021. This increase was largely propelled by a growing number of people fleeing Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, making up almost a quarter or more of the total number of border encounters (571,159).

In Venezuela US sanctions, according to a UN reporter – led to the death of over 60,000 people. “The sanctions effectively collapsed Venezuela’s oil production, which fell from nearly three million barrels per day in 2014 to 350,000 in 2020. As a consequence, Venezuela’s GDP shrank by roughly two-thirds between 2014 and 2020; inflation spiraled out of control, reaching an annual 1,946 percent increase in 2022. Venezuela’s sovereign debt reached a record high of approximately $150 billion. The sanctions also impacted pandemic-related responses beginning in 2020, putting a financial squeeze on the government and even limiting the country’s ability to acquire vaccines.” See: ImmigrationForum.Org

In beleaguered Cuba the state of the economy is also a function of six decades of U.S. economic sanctions imposed against the island nation since the Fidel Castro-led revolution that ended Cuba’s neo-colonial status and its subjugation to the US-backed Fulgencio Batista regime. Since 1962, the United States has adopted multiple policies to isolate the Cuban government. Although relations briefly thawed during the Obama administration, which initiated some policy shifts away from the devastating sanctions and toward normalizing relations, the Trump administration largely reversed those efforts. Obama-era changes included restoring diplomatic relations and easing restrictions on travel, remittances, trade, telecommunications, and financial services.

Trump’s renewed sanctions focused on two of Cuba’s most important sources of income: travel and remittances. With remittances representing the third largest source of income in Cuba, Trump’s 2017 sanctions were a severe blow. The economic fallout further drove migration to the United States, a trend that only worsened due to Covid-19. (See: ImmigrationForum.Org).

Nicaragua, which has also resisted US imperialism’s sanctions and coup efforts, has also been the victim of deadly US sanctions. These include the June 2022 embargo on Nicaragua’s state-run gold mining sector. Gold is Nicaragua’s top export, so the embargo is expected to have significant negative impacts on the national economy, which already was the second smallest in the Western Hemisphere in terms of per capita income (after Haiti). Nicaragua, previously a major beneficiary of Venezuela’s sending $billions in below cost oil for export, has also suffered with the US-orchestrated embargo on Venezuelan oil.

In consequence, Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans are leaving their sanction-ridden nations, victims of US sabotage, to fill needed US positions in the logistics, manufacturing and restaurant industries. As of March 2022, there were 693,000 open US manufacturing jobs at the same time the pandemic caused a major disruption in America’s labor force —something many have referred to as The Great Resignation. In 2022, more than 50 million US workers quit their jobs according to US Chamber of Commerce data. The Chamber also ironically noted that in more stable, higher paying industries the number of employees quitting has been lower. But that is for another article!

Biden continues Trump’s anti-immigrant policies

The border has also traditionally had a push-pull effect; when there are jobs open workers come, when there are no jobs available workers go. Capitalism has opened every door to the flow of money but seeks to close every door to the flow of workers.

Title 42, which expired on May 11, was a cynical mass expulsion scheme launched by the Trump Administration with the pretext of preventing COVID’s spread. Title 42 was continued by the Biden Administration similarly beholden to big business. Biden similarly dismantled most COVID protections resulting in the loss of over one million people, disproportionately the elderly and people of color. Even as COVID continues, with some one thousand dead weekly as we go to press, additional deaths and cases go largely unreported. At 1.2 million dead, the US stands first in the world in the number deaths worldwide.

The administration claims that using expedited removal of people who cross between ports of entry or do not make an IRS appointment will disrupt smuggling networks. On the contrary, with no other way to access protection, asylum seekers are more likely to engage smugglers, further enriching criminal cartels, Human Rights Watch reports.

Self-determination for all poor and oppressed nations and peoples

The right to asylum and to live where we please must be respected as a fundamental human right across the globe, even as international capital hypocritically moves across the globe.  The root causes of migration, the historic capitalist plunder, subjugation and degradation of Latin American nations by US capitalism and the installation of criminal puppet regimes in countries like Honduras, Chile, Guatemala and El Salvador, must become well known and thrown in the face of reactionary advocates of anti-immigrant policy and rhetoric. Meanwhile the shock doctrine of disaster capitalism in the form of punishing sanctions imposed on Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, who resist the US imperialist beast, must be rejected by all serious human rights forces. The struggle of all poor and oppressed nations to self- determination, free from US imperialism, along with the right of their people to autonomy, freedom and unconditional asylum, must be at the center of the movement’s work.

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