What is big media if not one of the biggest drivers of controversy to boost viewership and in return, ad dollars? It’s a successful business model that benefits the wealthy and highly-paid political talking heads who sell books by speculating until they’re blue in the face. One of their favorite issues to polarize, aside from race, is immigration. Particularly when they can use language like “surge” and “crisis” which translate to “invasion” on the far right.
This type of white-nationalist language made a comeback after 9/11, when immigration was rolled into a new Cabinet agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for enforcement and administration. As nationalist rhetoric began to pick up steam, major media outlets normalized it. Slowly as the federal government began to tighten the screws on migrants seeking asylum, the incrementalism we have become so accustomed to led us to the point of locking kids in cages; of opening the door for neo-fascism—all but dooming the U.S. to failed state status by electing overt racists to office.
None of this is to say that a large portion of American culture isn’t hateful and locked into the “traditional values” they refuse to shed. Let’s face it, modern society has opened the door for us to see just how ugly the United States is in myriad ways. The legal system, policing, banking, finance, education, you name it—it’s been used against non-white populations. Nearly everything we touch in the U.S. has been weaponized by white power structures. Including immigration.
As you may have heard, the United States is facing what cable news outlets are referring to as a “heartbreaking situation” at its Southern border in Del Rio, Texas. Yet they’ve said very little about the humanitarian and political crises in Haiti or the decades of deeply rooted U.S. policy that keeps the island nation in a state of constant struggle. Similar policies keep many Latin American nations —from Puerto Rico to the Golden Triangle— at the mercy of the United States.
When it comes to immigration, particularly when discussing Black migrants or migrants of color, much of the reporting relies on anecdotal accounts. Concern for migrants is always used as a political tool by both sides of the aisle in the U.S. When there’s a Democrat in office, we see people like Ted Cruz acting like they care when they said nothing or even worse, defended family separations. Similarly, we’ve seen Democrats use the Dream Act and immigration in general as political fodder to help with their continued reelection campaigns.
We cannot rely on political leaders nor the media to provide us with the full story about migrants of color. Such has been the case for many decades. Were they to provide details of how we’ve come to where we are, more voters would be critical of elected officials rather than complacently serving the interests of white power structures. And when it comes to Haiti, what the media leaves out is of the utmost importance.
As Ann Crawford-Roberts points out about foreign aid into Haiti, “One of the major drawbacks to the work of [Non-Governmental Organizations] NGOs within the country is the vast majority of them work outside of the government, and most are not even registered with the government. By bypassing the state, NGOs weaken it; American money, both from the federal government and from individuals, flows to NGOs and not, in general, the Haitian government, making it even harder for the state to function.”
Crawford Roberts continued to discuss the economic impacts on Haitians.
“An additional form of foreign aid has been food aid given by the federal government to Haiti. This food aid, heavily subsidized by the U.S. federal government so that it benefits American farmers, has flooded the Haitian markets, driving prices down. This, along with environmental degradation, has forced many Haitian farmers to give up their farms and move to Port-au-Prince and its surrounding slums.”
US news media is utterly predictable (yet again) when covering migration. Here we go again: sensationalized coverage of the "surge" without ANY real context of why Haitians are desperately fleeing their island nation. The reasons are deeply rooted in history for years. Wake up.
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) September 20, 2021
The history of U.S. interventionism in Haiti’s government is vast. In the early-to-mid 20th century, the United States maintained control of the island nation’s finances and secured excessive political influence after withdrawing troops from a decades-long occupation. Several decades of U.S. sponsored repression later, leftist Jean-Bertrand Aristide became president in Haiti’s first free elections. In September of 1991, less than a year into office, he was ousted in a coup supported by the U.S. government.
When it comes to migrants of color seeking asylum through the southern border, the discussion of why they are coming is never discussed enough. With Haiti, as with many Latin American countries, we mustn’t overlook how U.S. corporate interests destabilize the country via land ownership and with the help of NGOs.
After a massive earthquake struck Haiti less than six weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse earlier this year, Professor of Sociology at the Brooklyn College Jean Eddy Saint Paul wrote, “Moïse is the latest of five Haitian presidents to be killed in office since the country’s founding in 1804. Power struggles and strong economic interests, both local and with other nations —mainly the United States— have motivated those assassinations. Throughout Haitian history, the U.S. has been actively engaged in undermining the legitimacy of Haitian leaders who refused to bow to American imperialism.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, most people simply shrug their shoulders at the plight of migrants largely because big media fails to discuss the issue fully. Corporate-owned media selectively leaves out the impacts of interventionism on behalf of U.S. interests. More recently, we’ve seen U.S.-backed coups in several Latin American countries and even more failed coup attempts. Yet most people in the United States don’t know anything about them basing their knowledge of asylum-seekers on predetermined and very broad State Department narratives.
— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) September 20, 2021
While the United States offers promises to the countries it intervenes in, it never follows through on them. The U.S. sends funds and weapons to assist in coups to whichever Latin American country will serve the corporate needs of the moment. Of the times imperialist powers have been successful, nations were pillaged for their resources and economic control. Corporate influence wielded all the power over the people instead of lifting them out of poverty as promised.
Since the passage of The Monroe Doctrine in the 19th century, the United States has felt the need to involve itself in the affairs of every country in the hemisphere. Coincidentally, at that same time, the process of the blanqueamiento (whitening) in Latin America began. Whether you’re a believer that the two are mutually exclusive or not, the argument that much of U.S. policy in Latin America is white supremacist in nature certainly holds up. The idea that most in North America frown on immigrants from the South without scrutinizing the policies of an imperialist empire shows the willful white nationalist nature of how asylum seekers are treated.
The same superiority complex that is rampant in the United States results in the mistreatment of migrants once they enter the U.S. Seeing the images of a border patrol agent cracking a whip at Haitian asylum-seekers while yelling “go back to Mexico!” is beyond horrifying. But it is the result of white nationalist ideology bolstered by narratives perpetrated by politicians and pundits in corporate media. The normalization is deliberate. It has been for over a century.
As politicians play around with immigration in D.C., and while migrants travel thousands of miles risking their lives in search of that safety and security we promised, let us not forget the reality of why the vast majority of migrants come to the U.S. Let us also not forget how politicians have failed to properly address the situation for more than 50 years. Pay attention to those who have used immigration to help their reelection campaigns but have done nothing but stall for decades.
Pay attention to oppressive enforcement.
It’s all intentional.
“An honest conversation about immigration will inevitably lead to rage at the abominations rained upon child and mother innocents by Republican and Democratic administrations.”—Robert Lovato
An honest conversation about immigration will inevitably lead to rage at the abominations rained upon child & mother innocents by Republican and Democratic administrations. https://t.co/SCfHId740b
— Roberto Lovato (@robvato) September 20, 2021
Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American father of three young men, an anti-racist, journalist, and publisher of The Antagonist Magazine. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also support his work here and here.