Anti-Immigrant sentiment is present in other areas of our hemisphere besides the United States. As US President Donald Trump decries immigration from predominately Muslim countries and vows to build a border wall to defend from immigrants from Mexico and Central America, two of South America’s two most financially prosperous and stable economies also are experiencing a growth of xenophobic expression.
|Migrant Women Folk Festival in Buenos Aires (Wikimedia Commons)|
Susana Malcorra, foreign minister of Argentina and a serious candidate for UN Secretary-General in last year’s election, has done her part to establish a link between immigration and drug trafficking. Led by President Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s government has developed the rhetorical framework to vilify immigrants, established new controls meant to discourage immigration, targeted bus terminals used by immigrants, and on Jan. 26, implemented a system that obligates airlines to comply with the Interior Ministry.
Not unlike Argentina, Chile, too, has proposed legislation to curb immigration. In the face of a 132% increase of legally registered foreigners, Chile’s rightist coalition, Chile Vamos, wants to make it more difficult to obtain residency visas and also impose clearer penalties for violation of immigration laws.
|Peruvian immigrant women in Chile (Wikimedia Commons)|
And what is the collateral damage of these legislative and discursive campaign against immigrants? Much as we have seen here in the United States, discrimination against immigrants is on the rise in both Chile and Argentina as well. While immigrants are strategically targeted for national scapegoating, one study found that immigrants in Chile on average have spent more time in school than their Chilean counterparts.
Immigrants in Argentina primarily come from Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru, although some people are also migrating there from Uruguay and Chile.
The majority of its immigrants entering Chile hail from Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia, with a recent arrivals coming the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Venezuela (a country that finds itself in times of unprecedented inflation). As more Haitians and other immigrants of African descent arrive, an interesting result has been the diversification of the traditionally homogenous ethnic makeup of Chile.
There is uncertainty whether proposed and enacted legislation will ultimately discourage immigration into the two powerful economies at the tip of South America. Other factors could also come into play, such as the lack of job opportunities. Chile has experienced paltry economic growth in recent years, and Argentina has seen a growth in inflation, a drop in domestic consumption, and an explosive rise in the country’s poverty numbers during the Macri years. The economy was a factor in recent migration patterns in the US, In the years following the Great Recession, the number of Mexican immigrants who left the US surpassed arrivals.