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Fear of Immigrants (and Soros)

It’s just another one of those amazing coincidences and a harbinger of things to come in the United States.  It was the news that Democracy’s greatest champion in Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a Trump wannabe, was presiding over a parliament last June that was drafting anti-immigrant legislation.

The parliament’s efforts were preceded by the Hungarian parliamentary election, that took place on April 8, 2018.  During that election, Mr. Orban ignored the problems in Hungary, such as corruption scandals, low wages, or the depressing state of health care. His campaign was focused exclusively on keeping immigrants out of Hungary.  The choice, he said when campaigning, was (a) a national government over which he would preside, or (b) a government formed by George Soros.

The legislation that was drafted, following the election,  was aimed at immigrants seeking asylum, and criminalized the activities of anyone giving them assistance. It was called the “Stop Soros Bill.”

Mr. Soros is the American-Hungarian billionaire who has had a large presence in Hungary.  The government was, however, accusing him of encouraging refugees to go to Hungary. According to Mr. Orban’s acolytes, NGOs financed by Mr. Soros operate as “a network to facilitate illegal migration.” In mid-June the Hungarian parliament passed the Stop Soros legislation.

The bill creates a crime called “promoting and supporting illegal migration.” It bans organization and individuals from giving any help to undocumented immigrants.  It is drafted in such a way that, as simple an act as providing food or shelter to an immigrant, would be a violation of the law.

Following the passage of the bill, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee issued a press release that said in part: “The primary aim of this legislation is to intimidate by means of criminal law those who fully, legitimately, assist asylum seekers or foreigners.  It threatens to jail those who support vulnerable people.”

Passage of the “Stop Soros” law was not Mr. Orban’s only anti-Soros triumph. On October 25, 2018, the Central European University (CEU) which is considered the best English language university in Budapest and, indeed, in the heart of Europe, will be moving most of its operations to Vienna, Austria.

CEU was founded more than 30 years ago by George Soros.  As its website explains, it is a graduate level “crossroads” university where “faculty and students come to engage in interdisciplinary education. . . . With approximately 1,400 students. . . from more than 130 countries, CEU is one of the most densely international universities in the world. . . .”  CEU has been in Budapest since its creation in 1991.  Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, incoming students for the masters and doctoral programs will study at a new campus in Vienna.  As the trustees of CEU explained, CEU is moving because of the Hungarian “government’s crackdown on academic freedom including a government ban on gender studies programs, the forced suspension of research related to migration, and punitive tax measures.”  It is a great victory for Viktor Orban.  And it is a wonderful model for the Trump who not only shares Mr. Orban’s hatred of immigrants, but his dislike for George Soros.

The Trump’s fear of immigrants is well known and is attested to by the deployment of troops to the border which, the Trump says, is designed to keep out the caravan that is filled with terrorists and other unsavory sorts intent on causing havoc in the United States as soon as they get in.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal on November 20, the Trump has been almost as successful in keeping out immigrants as Mr. Orban.  According to the report, at the border crossing in Yuma, Arizona, until very recently, 30 or more families were permitted entry every day.  In the last two weeks, at most one family a day has been permitted to enter.  As one immigration counsellor said: “It really seems like they are trying to discourage people from crossing to seek asylum legally . . . . It’s been bad for a couple weeks.”

As noted above, hostility towards immigrants is not the only tie that binds Messrs. Orban and Trump.  Dislike of Mr. Soros is the other.

During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, one of the Republican senators conducting the hearings was confronted by two women in the Senate Office Building as he was entering the elevator.  They were expressing their dismay over the prospect of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Commenting on the confrontation, the Trump tweeted: “The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love.”

On another occasion, in response to a question posed by a reporter who asked whether the Trump thought Soros was funding the migrant caravan whose advent the Trump warned of before the election, the Trump said: “I wouldn’t be surprised.  A lot of people say yes.”

Mr. Orban may wonder why the Trump has never expressed the sort of love for him that he has for Messrs. Kim or Putin. I want to reassure him that it is not for want of affection.  Indeed, it is nothing more than an oversight and on behalf of the United States I want to offer my apologies to Mr. Orban for the Trump’s rudeness.  He is not its only victim.

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