ARGENTINA’S TRUMP-LIKE IMMIGRATION ORDER RATTLES SOUTH AMERICA

[2/5/17]  Argentina is so used to celebrating immigration as a cornerstone of society that a 19th-century saying — to govern is to populate — remains in use to this day.

But in an abrupt shift coinciding with the immigration restrictions put in place by the Trump administration, President Mauricio Macri has issued a decree curbing immigration to Argentina, with his government declaring that newcomers from poorer countries in Latin America bring crime.

The measures announced by Mr. Macri in recent days made it much easier to deport immigrants and restrict their entry, prompting irate comparisons to President Trump and igniting a fierce debate over immigration.

“A decree like this scares people,” said Arfang Diedhiou, 33, a Senegalese immigrant who runs his own clothing store here in the capital, Buenos Aires. “It came out just after what Trump did, a coincidence that seems very strange to me.”

Argentina’s president, the son of an immigrant, has echoed some of Mr. Trump’s “America First” theme, making it clear that his “first concern” should be “caring for Argentines, caring for ourselves.”

“We cannot continue to allow criminals to keep choosing Argentina as a place to commit offenses,” Mr. Macri said during a news conference.

His decree has also rekindled criticism of his ties to the American president, whom he calls a friend. In the 1980s, Mr. Macri worked with his father, an Italian immigrant and industrial magnate, on a real estate project in New York that the family ended up selling to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Macri’s immigration measures, while not as far-reaching as Mr. Trump’s decision to halt refugees from around the world and freeze visas from seven predominantly Muslim nations, are raising diplomatic tensions in the region. Some South American leaders are attacking what they view as an attempt to mimic Mr. Trump’s immigration policies and nurture xenophobic sentiment.

“Brothers, Latin American presidents, we can’t follow the immigration policies of the North,” President Evo Morales of Bolivia said.

But opinion polls in Argentina showed widespread support for limiting immigration, and some say the new decree does not go far enough. One right-wing congressman is even calling for a wall to be built on the border with Bolivia.

Claudio Suárez, 65, a worker at a bakery in Buenos Aires, called the immigration curbs “fantastic.”

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