March 28, 2023

Joe Biden and his administration come out of the Clintonian tradition of American politics, tied to the legacy of the Democratic Leadership Council, a former non-profit bent on steering the Democratic Party towards the center. Biden was an early member of the council and while he was vice president, his chief of staff from 2011 to 2013 was Bruce Reed, former CEO of the DLC. In 1989, then-governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, became chairman of the DLC. In a piece for The Atlantic, Al From, founder of the DLC, writes that he had sought Clinton out for his record as governor, providing as an example of policy, “fining parents who missed their kids’ parent-teacher conference.” Similarly, in 2011, Kamala Harris pushed for the passing of a law that allowed for district attorneys to prosecute parents deemed responsible for their kid’s truancy. The law resulted in arrests of single mothers.

This Clintonian tradition is hyper-ideological. The persecution of the poor is at the behest of big business that profits off the state’s regimentation of the lives of the most vulnerable. It constitutes support for reactionary governments abroad and harsh immigration policies at home. Clinton passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), voted for by Biden, removing restrictions and tariffs that previously prevented capital from being sent over the border. According to Lance Compa of Cornell University, “A large, nearby source of low-wage labor and low- regulation enterprise,” as provided for by NAFTA, “fuels a corporate offensive against national trade union movements and working-class living standards.” 

The system of free trade is only advantageous for industry if it can pit workers against each other. Moving capital is only profitable if labor is forced to stay where it is. Following the passing of NAFTA, Clinton increased funding for Border Patrol, transferring military materials to their facilities, effectively militarizing the border. According to Nolan Rappaport, this contributed to the death of 7,216 migrants who were forced to seek more dangerous ways of crossing. The 1990s are said to be defined by ‘globalization’ but the refusal to adopt a progressive immigration policy makes the term problematic. 

On February 18 of this year, the Biden administration announced new guidelines for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding deportations. ICE has now been directed to prioritize the deportations of undocumented immigrants who constitute threats to national security or public safety. The policy resembles that of the Obama administration, which resulted in the deportation of some three million immigrants, around 60% of whom had no criminal convictions or had criminal convictions that were immigration-related. Speaking on the change in policy, the ACLU’s Naureen Shah called it, “a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration’s earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies of both the Trump and Obama presidencies.”

On February 8, seventy-two people, including twenty-two children, were deported from the United States to Haiti, a country currently dealing with political unrest that the Biden Administration is making worse, in line with the American tradition of torturing Haiti. U.S. interference in the country goes as far back as 1915 when the Wilson administration militarily occupied the island, opening it up economically to American companies.

During the Cold War, the United States supported two military coups in Haiti, effectively ensuring the country remain an undemocratic haven for American financial interests. Clinton supported the military junta that resulted from the 1991 coup, all the while rhetorically calling for elections. In 2004, democratically-elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been ousted in 1991, was kidnapped by American forces and shipped off to the Central African Republic. He was effectively barred from elections in 2010 and 2011.

Michel Martelly, the president those sham elections worked on behalf of, used the natural disaster of 2010 as an excuse to open up the country’s economy to foreign interests with the help of an advisory board of business executives and politicians, which Bill Clinton sat on.

Since 2018, Haitians have been protesting the corrupt government of Jovenel Moïse, Martelly’s successor. Multiple protesters have been killed and 23 people have been jailed for political reasons in the past year or so. Moïse has appointed magistrates to Haiti’s high court in a move to pack the judiciary with those loyal to him. For over a year he has ruled by decree and stayed in power past February 7 when he was set to step down. The Biden administration, instead of supporting new elections or the ousting of Moïse has supported his claim that his term should expire in 2022.

The Trump administration invoked public health measure Title 42 at the start of the pandemic in order to expedite deportations. The Biden administration has continued to invoke this measure, meaning that the recent deportations will continue despite the new guidelines. These deportations have been numerous. In the first two weeks of February, over 100 Haitians were deported. The continuation of these deportations has put pressure on Haitian institutions that are already in turmoil because of the unrest.

The Biden administration is continuing the Clintonian/Neoliberal tradition of supporting reactionary governments in the Western Hemisphere while persecuting immigrants. In Barack Obama’s first year, military aid and diplomatic support were given to the military in Honduras, who ousted their democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya. Then, Honduran women and children were deported in order to send the message, according to a White House statement, that undocumented immigrants, “will not be welcome to this country.” This should be a wake-up call to the liberals who were outraged by Trump’s horrific immigration and foreign policy; the demonization of immigrants and the support of reactionary governments abroad is as equally neoliberal as it is neofascist.

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