Instead of complying with treaty obligations, the Morrison LNP Government is spending like a drunken sailor in an attempt to win a political war to demonstrate how evil and horrible the people who have sought refugee status in Australia after arriving by boat really are. Not only are Morrison and Dutton lying about the conditions that they are forcing potential deportee’s families to live in, the cruelty imposed in our name is expensive to boot.
According to the treaty that the Menzies Government signed in 1951, people who wish to apply for refugee status do not have to form an orderly queue, apply in the first country they come to, arrive at their ultimate destination on a certain form of transport or be of the same ethnicity or religious beliefs as those in the country they resettle in.
Ironically, those that arrive by ‘leaky boat’ are far more likely to be genuine refugees than those that arrive on a plane, something the Parliamentary Library has been documenting for all of this century. It is also logical, if you are being harassed or targeted by the government in your country of origin, they are probably not likely to allow you (and your family) to obtain exit documentation, then leave the country so you can ‘stir up trouble’ overseas.
Australia has a long history of racist behaviour going back to the dispossession of land from the Aboriginal peoples in 1788. Other countries don’t fare much better.
Throughout the [nineteenth] century men of the sturdy stocks of the north of Europe had made up the main strain of foreign blood which was every year added to the vital working force of the country . . . but now there came multitudes of men of the lowest class from the south of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland, men out of the ranks where there was neither skill nor energy nor any initiative of quick intelligence; and they came in numbers which increased from year to year, as if the countries of the south of Europe were disburdening themselves of the more sordid and hapless elements of their population.
These words were not mouthed by an Australian politician after World War 2, but Woodrow Wilson a decade before he became President of the USA in 1912. At the end of World War 1, the USA implemented a number of strategies to rid themselves of ‘political dissidents’
“The surest way to preserve the public against those disciples of destruction,” Thomas Edward Campbell, the governor of Arizona, told a conference of newspaper editors on February 22, 1919, “is to send them back forthwith to lands from which they came.”
According to The New Yorker, the Wilson Administration did just that by rounding up ‘dissidents’ from across the USA, taking them to Ellis Island in New York (traditionally used for welcoming immigrants to the USA) and sending 249 people back to the other side of the Atlantic on the retired troop ship Buford at the end of 1919. As The New Yorker goes on to discuss
And if native-born Americans were acting un-American, why not deport them, too? Senator Kenneth McKellar, of Tennessee, suggested that they “be deported permanently to the Island of Guam.”
And why not go one step further and strip objectionable people of U.S. citizenship, to make them more deportable? In 1919, alarmed by the growing presence of “peoples of Asiatic races,” the Anti-Alien League called for a constitutional amendment “to restrict citizenship by birth within the United States to the children of parents who are of a race which is eligible for citizenship”— i.e., whites. Senator Wesley Jones, of Washington State, promised to introduce such a measure — a proposal not unlike today’s calls to end birthright citizenship. That May, a cheering convention of the American Legion demanded the deportation not only of immigrants who evaded military service during the First World War but of any men who evaded service.
Think about it — some of the concepts are similar to that voiced more recently in Australia.
The New Yorker discusses that Wilson’s Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, formed the ‘Radical Division’ of the Justice Department in 1917 and chose a young J. Edgar Hoover to lead it. The raids attributed to Palmer but seemingly organised by Hoover reached their peak on 2 January 1920 with raids in 30 towns including
[in] Manchester, it was everyone dancing at the Tolstoi Club; in Chicago, all the patrons at the Tolstoy Vegetarian Restaurant; in Lynn, Massachusetts, thirty-nine bakers, a third of them American citizens, in the middle of a meeting to discuss forming a co-operative; in New Jersey, a group of Polish-Americans soliciting money for a funeral; in Philadelphia, the members of the Lithuanian Socialist Chorus, mid-rehearsal.
Thousands were arrested and a large number were transported to Ellis Island, to be deported.
Then came a great example of what goes around, comes around.
The deportations legally had to be authorised by the Department of Labour. Because of illness, the Secretary of the Department of Labour went on extended leave and an Assistant Secretary, Louis F. Post, was left in charge. It is reported that Secretary Post observed
many of the raids had been made without warrants, or with warrants based on faulty information, he invalidated nearly three thousand of the arrests. He found that prisoners had been questioned without being informed that their answers could be used as evidence against them and without being given access to lawyers. In response, he ruled that any alien subjected to the deportation process was entitled to full constitutional safeguards.
Post learned that many people taken in the raids hadn’t known that one of the Communist parties listed them as members; these factions had seceded from the Socialist Party and were intent on claiming as large a membership as possible. He ordered the release of many of those still held in immigration prisons like the one on Ellis Island; he slashed the amount of bail for others.
Palmer’s Justice Department fought back, publicly claiming that there would be a rebellion on May Day 1920. Probably unsurprisingly, nothing happened. The New Yorker observes
It was only after Post had spent several months publicly stopping deportations that a group of a dozen distinguished attorneys, law professors, and law-school deans, including the future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, issued a report denouncing the Justice Department’s many violations of the Constitution in carrying out the Palmer Raids. The report was accompanied by sixty pages of material, from sworn statements of witnesses to photographs of bruised and beaten prisoners.
Wilson’s successor as President, Warren Harding, put a stop to the xenophobia upon election in late 1920, calling for a ‘return to normality’.
The language and actions of the Americans 100 years ago sounds familiar. Regrettably, Dutton’s Home Affairs ‘super’ Department doesn’t have to defer to others when it comes to treatment of immigrants to Australia. However, in a similar way to the acceptance from many in Australia about how the recent catastrophic bushfires are evidence of the reality of climate change, broad based and consistent discussion objecting to the cruelty (and apparent inconsistencies) carried out in our name will eventually change public opinion on assisting refugees and multi-culturalism. There are plenty of beneficial examples to use in reinforcing the point that multi-culturalism works.
In Morrison’s Australia apparently it is acceptable (according to News Corp) that
the Home Affairs Minister personally intervened to help the nannies of wealthy and powerful friends dodge immigration rules and enter the country without hassle.
while he has refused the application of a Tamil family from Biloela whose only crimes were paying taxes, fitting into the community and bringing up their Australian born kids. Dutton’s Department has shipped the family off to Christmas Island (via Melbourne) while a legal case to keep this family in the country is being fought by the Morrison Government.
Makes you proud of the quiet Australians, doesn’t it?
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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