The receding El Dorado of America

Shihab Sarkar | Published: March 02, 2017 20:19:41 | Updated: October 24, 2017 00:39:23

Scores of countries around the world are literally composed of immigrants, who migrated to these lands hundreds of years ago. They belong to different ethnicities, and are from distant shores. In the natural process of assimilation, these peoples of diverse roots later emerged as separate nations.
 In an alarming development, newly elected US President Donald Trump is mulling a fresh executive order to temporarily ban entry of immigrants from seven Muslim countries after his first one was blocked by a federal judge. But illegal immigrants in that country are on edge with his constant threats to deport them. The Trump administration's Islamophobic attitude towards even the non-white US Muslim citizens could be guessed from the February 27 shabby treatment of the son and wife of the boxing legend Mohammad Ali at a Florida airport. The crux of the whole episode apparently is that, the fate of the immigrants in the US is going to be sealed --- no matter if one is a legal non-resident, a Muslim Black citizen or one staying in the country without documents. Thousands of the floating people belonging to the last category keep living in the country with the hope of coming within the gamut of presidential amnesty occasionally offered to undocumented aliens. It's, however, a pipe dream given the Republican President's avowed policy to cleanse the US of 'unwanted elements.' In the 2017 post-election period, the prospects for these opportunities are highly illusory. However, protests against these stern steps in the country and elsewhere in the world continue to rage making the frightened and puzzled immigrants take heart.
 A universal truth keeps flashing in the minds of many: practically no citizen of any country can rationally be termed an alien, as their physical and inner worlds have coalesced into that of the natives. In the face of the US President's constant intimidation of the already petrified illegal immigrants, many old customs of nationality are destined to become meaningless. The Republican President has barged into the US presidency riding the crest of a veritable xenophobia. His vision of the greatness and supreme role of America in global landscape is being viewed as unique to this century. Ironically, he has taken the helm of the world's largest democracy. It is the very country which in the 18th century opened its doors to all the distressed people of the world. To quote from the immortal poem carved on a 19th century plaque of the Statue of Liberty, " …Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" President Trump is not unaware of this epic appeal of the US' founding fathers.
At this point one would like to believe that it's a series of disillusionment that may have prompted the President to take this rigid stance vis-à-vis the undocumented aliens living in their dream country. The very thought that the presidential threats have been prompted by any kind of entrenched xenophobia provokes a feeling of dread and misgivings in the people living in the US without legal papers.
For vast numbers of these people, the star is indeed crossed. With the comfortable stay in America fast becoming uncertain, their triumphant return to their home countries have also turned fuzzy. To immigrants from the developing countries around the world, the USA symbolises happiness and prosperity. It's a beacon of secure future for themselves and their near and dear ones. In terms of ensuring economic fulfilment for the distressed from poorer countries, no country stands anywhere near the US - it has long been proven. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Britain also enjoyed the status of one of the most sought-after migrant destinations. The setting of the sun on its vast empire in Asia and Africa and the economic belt-tightening eventually made it a fading power. Migrants from its former colonies found it to be no longer wise to go fortune-hunting in the once-lucrative Britain. With the great victory in World War-II, the USA, a dominant component of the Allied Forces fighting the Germany-led Axis Forces in 1945, eventually emerged with a robust economy. The decades of the 1950s through the sixties and onwards witnessed the emergence of the country as the strongest economy in the world. Its march continued unabated. So did the flow of immigrants into the country from different parts of the world.
It was not only the economic well-being that America offered to the world's deprived people. Social security and the dignity of living as upright humans also played major roles in attracting many. They were mostly from countries with iron-fisted rules. And thus the migrants' focus began shifting fast from Britain to the USA. After the opening of the vast resourceful country to the whole world, America finally became synonymous with freedom --- economic, social and political. To the world's harried migrants, the mighty nation meant the only key to liberty from all kinds of material woes, deprivations and persecutions. Apart from the economically battered people, it sheltered political asylum seekers during the Cold War. People fleeing regimented societies had found in the US the last resort of hope even in the beginning of the present century. Everything changed and went upside down after the 9/11 attack on the US soil.
With the world's geopolitical scenario careening towards an abysmal darkness, acerbated by an unholy alliance of disparate forces with ulterior motive, premonitions of all conceivable kinds loom. The American people, too, have been affected by it. After the threats of anti-Christian terrorist violence became a reality, especially targeting the West, the US people in general had few options but become wary. But as it befits a great nation comprising purely immigrants, the American people have all along been tolerant. The provocations coming from their new President appear to have little appeal to most of them. Apart from a few jingoistic people, Americans have long been used to living with people from different lands. President Trump's ideology of White Supremacy is virtually opening fissures and schisms in American society. His xenophobic outpourings and triumphalism carry all the elements that sow the seeds of suspicion for fellow humans. Here cohesion takes a back seat, chaos and angst rule the roost.
The history of civilisations has been replete with varied types of exoduses and migrations. The notable of them are the Jewish Diaspora in the pre-Christ days and that during the World War-II. Palestinians' taking shelter in the neighbouring countries after the establishment of the Zionist state of Israel on their ancient land has been influencing the Middle Eastern geopolitics since the late 1940s. In spite of the seemingly endless ordeals of these stateless people, the Palestinians, barring a few unfortunate cases, have been enjoying the shelter and support of the other regional countries.
 After the fall of Saigon in the Vietnam War in mid-1970s, thousands of people from the country's southern part migrated to Australia and the USA. Notwithstanding the initial hiccups linked to ignorance and inhibitions, the Vietnamese were finally able to find themselves absorbed in these two country's mainstream societies. The immigrant Vietnamese, and the Chinese in the earlier decades, are among the major examples of assimilation with the dominant populations of shelter-offering countries in the 20th century. 
To the great woes of the economically battered and war-affected people in today's world, the USA under Donald Trump is feared to emerge as an essentially immigrant-hostile country. It negates the lofty ideals of America as envisioned by its founders in the 18th century --- and mindlessly at that.

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