- Old Buddies and Same Old Stories:Argentina and US relations in the Trump Era
On January 25th 2017 the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, issued Executive Orders 13767 and 13768. The former commands Customs and Border Patrol to "secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border." The latter enhances immigration officers' power to initiate deportation proceedings. Two days later, on January 27th, Trump issued EO 13769 suspending the refugee program as well as the entry to the United States of America of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
On the very same day, Trump's Argentine counterpart, President Mauricio Macri, issued Decreto de Necesidad y Urgencia 70/2017 (DNU - Decree of Need and Urgency) that reformed Argentine immigration statutes, lowering the requirements for the deportation of foreign residents while expediting the deportation process. This simultaneity could very well be just an unfortunate coincidence but what should call our immediate attention is that the content of these measures—the xenophobic targeting and racialized stereo-types [End Page 176] that they mobilize—are strikingly similar.
According to the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), Macri's DNU 70/2017 reinstates the same criteria that existed under the 1976-1983 Argentine dictatorship. Under the Law 22.439, also known as the Ley Videla (after de facto president of Argentina Jorge R. Videla) in place until 2004, undocumented immigrants were denied access to social services such as education and health care, both free and public in Argentina, and the right to legitimate legal defense. At the time of its implementation Congress had been dissolved and national security doctrines "justified" the establishment of a system of control and sanction of the immigrant population. But what can possibly justify a measure like this under a democratic government, where it is the prerogative of the Congress to legislate on immigration issues? According to CELS, DNU 70/2017 was neither justified on the basis of need, nor of urgency.
"Immigration" was not a central issue of Macri's political campaigns neither as Mayor of the city of Buenos Aires, nor for President of Argentina. Yet, Macri's xenophobia is not new. During his tenure as the Mayor of Buenos Aires (2007-2015), he and members of his administration made several remarks linking immigration from neighboring countries with delinquency of all kinds, from petty crime to illegal occupation of land and drug trafficking. Furthermore, Macri, just like Trump, won his campaign and has built his policies by tapping into deep-rooted fears and grievances. For instance, his campaign tapped into middle class discourses about a lack of law and order in an urban space increasingly perceived as dangerous and ungovernable.
This is not the only similarity between the two presidents. Macri's association with Donald Trump goes back to the 1980s when he and his father tried to close a deal with him in New York. In a 2005 interview Macri said of Trump and himself: "we remained buddies. Every time I go to New York, I visit him, and I have lunch with him and his wife" (Página 12 2016). That said, Macri did not support Trump's candidacy and instead bet on Hillary Clinton's continuation of Obama's diplomatic and economic policies. Yet, the morning after the election, Macri congratulated Trump on twitter, arranged to have a phone call that took place on November 14th and tried to secure a visit to the United States.
In a public opinion poll undertaken a few days prior to the announcement of DNU 70/2017, the pollster Poliarquía (http://poliarquia.com/encuesta-nacional-sobre-politica-migratoria/) reported that the level of approval for at least two of the measures—the banning of immigrants with a criminal record and "deportation express" procedures—surpassed 80 percent. But this is not new, either. In Argentina, migrants have been scapegoated for the lack of jobs and the critical economic situation at multiple points throughout the 20th century (Grimson 2001, 2006; Guano 2003). For instance, in 1902, the Ley de Residencia (Residence Law) legalized the deportation of...