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The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women

Photo by Master Steve Rapport | CC BY 2.0

An under-examined element of the Trump Administration’s war on immigrants was the ruling by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that immigration judges could not consider domestic or gang violence when deciding who qualifies for asylum in the United States. Sessions said: “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.” Suddenly Mr. Sessions is concerned about the ability to police. Sessions is expanding private prisons, escalating the war on drugs and standing against consent degrees for cops. But now apparently nothing can be done?

We can’t blame it all on Sessions, he was drawing from the five categories that one can seek asylum under. The five categories are persecution for membership in a social group, race, religion, nationality and political affiliation. Alarmingly, there is not a category for being a woman. Even though this is by far the most common reason one is in a dangerous situation at home. Jeff will probably come around to women’s rights the next time Kate McKinnon impersonates him.

Contrary to liberal doctrine I would like to propose that Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump are not so much suffering from an unhealthy dose of masculinity that will be flipped on its head by a naked statue. They, like the Democrat and Republican leaders before them are operating under an economic incentive to keep Central America in disarray, women be damned. Let’s be careful not to fall into explaining away some essentialized form of ‘intersectionality’ or something. From Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “Can The Subaltern Speak?”: “ ‘White men are saving brown women from brown men’ is a sentence indicating a collective fantasy symptomatic of a collective itinerary of sadomasochistic repression in a collective imperialist enterprise. There is a satisfying symmetry in such an allegory, but I would rather invite the reader to consider it a problem in ‘wild psychoanalysis’ than a clinching solution.”

The problem for Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions is much closer to what Spivak called ‘wild psychoanalysis’. Wild, yes. And perhaps with a hand fitting the glove in practice but not really for any reason than the most base power relations that run like a stream under all the post-whatever theories. The irony for Mr. Trump is that he is perfectly willing to point out the truth as soon as it does more harm than good. Take for example this classic quote about immigrants that would rightly be dismissed as racist: “I used the word rape—and yesterday it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody’s ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that.” Yes, Mr. Trump is an activist of sorts it seems. He is an activist for every Walmart shoplifted by a poor brown person and an activist for whomever is raped by a poor brown person. Anything to get Mr. Sessions his dinner.

This is of course a quote wildly out of context—but not necessarily untrue. And now, in the most sardonic of fates it is Trump’s administration who is making sure that the victims of the very crimes he uses to scare his base are left with nowhere to escape to. But Trump is right that no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to talk about the violence these women are fleeing from. And it is not so much that both sides of the liberal-conservative split pretend all the immigrants are the same—although this happens all the time. It is more so that these conditions are never given the proper context.

In Central America there are some horrible gangs in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. While none of the immigrant policies are humane in the United States, there is variance. Particularly in the new policy put in place by Sessions that does not allow people fleeing gang or domestic violence to seek asylum on this basis. But when it comes to actually creating this violence in the region, a bipartisan mission has been necessary. Both by liberal feminist Democrats and conservative misogynist Republicans.

Take for example our latest Democratic President. Was he for bringing stability or chaos to the region? Fernando Lugo of Paraguay gone in a CIA directed coup of 2012. Manuel Zelaya of Honduras overthrown in the middle of the night. An attempted overthrow of Ecuador’s Rafael Correa in 2010. Extreme sanctions on Venezuela. Then there was the undermining of an independent economy in El Salvador in 2014, creating a very negative trade balance. The list goes on. Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. The allegiance with Wall St. backed Mauricio Macri in Argentina. The continuation of Plan Colombia which helped to escalate the drug war.

Say what you will about the liberal Democrats, but when it comes to foreign policy they are always supporting conservative forces. They are always looking for governments that keep other countries poor, violent and dependent. It does matter whether or not we take the people fleeing these countries. But this is only done to stop the bleeding that we caused.

We should be past the idea that the cultural divide between Democrats and Republicans will necessarily dictate their policies when push comes to shove. Mr. Obama may be a good father but he has ensured that millions of women and children in South and Central America will struggle for basic human rights. He has undermined safety nets within these countries and replaced them with right wing gangs. It will become very easy to blame the condition of these women on culture, which will inevitably turn into a racist discussion pretty quickly. We should not discount the fact that the desire for economic supremacy by the United States is a key factor in forming all of these conditions.

So it seemed queer when Barack Obama warned us of strong man politics in his recent speech in South Africa. Wasn’t it Mr. Obama’s administration that promoted strong man politics in South and Central American countries, much like his predecessors? Wasn’t it Mr. Obama who continued George W. Bush’s wars in the Middle East? Wasn’t it Mr. Obama who escalated the war on Africa? Who is more of a strong man, Obama who interferes in hundreds of countries, or Vladimir Putin who rules in one?

Mr. Trump is a pig. And his administration will continue the war on women without blinking. Trump’s optics are bad, but his actions may be even worse. Same goes for these Democrats though. Liberals and Democrats hate women too. The only difference between them and Trump is their image relies on saving a few that wash up on their shores.

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Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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