Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mass deportation developments

Woody Guthrie's song "Deportees" has gained a new, immediate significance with Trump's mass deportation program underway. This version by Delila Paz and Edgey Pires ("The Last Internationale") is my favorite version of the song. Because Delila delivers the lyrics beautifully but with a touch of anger in her voice, which seems very appropriate for this song:

The moment at the end where the names of the dead scroll across the screen always gets to me.

Francisco Castro reports on protests against the "witch hunt" against immigrants., Grupos proinmigrantes denuncian ‘cacería de brujas’ contra indocumentados La Opinión 02/21/2017

Here's a statement from one my two Senators, Diane Feinstein, Feinstein Statement on Immigration Executive Order Implementation 02/21/2017:

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement in response to guidance released by the Department of Homeland Security to implement the president’s executive order on immigration.

“The guidance released by the Department of Homeland Security creates an unprecedented situation for undocumented immigrants living, working and paying taxes in the United States, as well as Homeland Security, which is now charged with picking up otherwise law-abiding people in their homes and places of work.

“Up until this point, the priority for removal has been dangerous criminals. But under this new guidance, 11 million undocumented immigrants are now priorities for deportation. This is simply unparalleled in its meanness, scope and most likely its enforceability.

“The solution that will prevent the separation of families is passing our bill to repeal President Trump’s executive order, introduced last week by Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto from Nevada.”

Amesty International warns that the conservative government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto isn't making adequate preparations for the humanitarian crisis that Trump's mass deportation could dump onto Mexico: Gloria Leticia Díaz, México, sin plan emergente ante las “consecuencias devastadoras” de las políticas de Trump: AI Proceso 11.02.2017

Rick Perlstein in 2015 described in dramatic terms what a complete deportation of all 11-12 million undocumented workers in the US (Donald Trump and the “F-Word” Washington Spectator 09/30/2017):

Trump has now provided more “specifics” about his immigration plan: a forced population transfer greater than any attempted in history, greater than the French and Spanish expulsions of the Jews in 1308 and 1492; greater than the Nabka of approximately 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from British-mandate Palestine; greater than the 1.5 million Stalin consigned to Siberia and the Central Asian republics; greater than Pol Pot’s exile of 2.5 million city-dwellers to the Cambodian countryside, or the scattering of Turkey’s Assyrian Christians, which the scholar Mordechai Zaken says numbers in the millions and required 180 years to complete. Trump has promised to move 12 million Mexicans in under two years––“so fast your head will spin.”

There's always a danger in comparing various atrocities by headcount that by doing so, there is the risk of implying some sort of relative justification for the action with the smaller number of victims. One horrible thing does not make another one less horrible. But numbers do matter. A single case of the flu is an illness. Several million cases are more of an epidemic.

One other notable mass relocation of people that I thought of in this connection was the mass expulsion of ethnic Germans after the Second World War from countries in central and eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia and Poland.

R.M. Douglas writes about these forced reloations in The Expulsion Of The Germans: The Largest Forced Migration In History Huffington Post 08/25/2012:

By mid-1945, not merely the largest forced migration but probably the largest single movement of population in human history was under way, an operation that continued for the next five years. Between 12 and 14 million civilians, the overwhelming majority of them women, children and the elderly, were driven out of their homes or, if they had already fled the advancing Red Army in the last days of the war, forcibly prevented from returning to them.
I won't try to summarize the complicated political and ideological and historical questions around that event here. Douglas covers some of it.

I'm not sure how directly that complicated event compares directly to the Trump deportation under way now. For one thing, that one happened in the wake of the most destructive war in human history. The hatred and hysteria behind the Trump mass deportation is far more subjective and wildly out of proportion to any actual threat involved from the undocumented Latino immigrants in the US to the country. And it's certainly not coming in the aftermath of any war with a Latino country.

Norman Naimark in The Russians in Germany: A History of the the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949 (1995) cites the figures from Gerhard Ziemer, estimating "that 2,280,000 noncombatant Germans out of a total off 11.5 million refugees died as a result of the transfer from the East." It was truly ugly stuff.

I would also note that forced relocations and more voluntary refugees - if that's a meaningful concept at all - would further complicate the comparison of the postwar expulsions of ethnic Germans to the events Perlstein lists or to Trump's mass deportation.

Hans Lemberg and Erik Franzen include a table in Die Vertriebenen: Hitlers letzten Opfer (2001) showing 11.2 million displaced persons taken in by East and West Germany combined by 1950. Not incidentally, this is something to keep in mind when you hear about European rightwingers complaining about all the refugees they are getting today. And of what an obscenity it is for the United States today to refuse to take more than a few thousand refugees from the Middle Eastern wars for which the US bears such a large responsibility.

An expulsion of 12 million people from the United States is an ugly, ugly prospect. Postwar German politicians often used the formula that there is no such thing as collective guilt, but there is collective responsibility.

That is true for Americans today with Trump's mass deportation.

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