President Trump & Immigration: the 1960s and 70s called. They want Ian Smith back

Almost a year ago I wrote a post showing the many ways in which then candidate Donald Trump could be compared to a slew of right-wing French politicians in terms of his rhetoric. Now I have another parallel to draw – this time further afield showing how Trump’s immigration ban policy echoes a ban put in place in 1971 by Ian Smith (both men are pictured above making the cover of Time Magazine) and his pariah white minority government in quasi-apartheid Rhodesia, a decade before that country gained independence as Zimbabwe.

Since assuming office in January, President Trump has made two this far ill-fated attempts at blanket barring citizens of Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Iran and Somalia so as to keep terrorists out. Both the first and re-tweaked second versions were shot down by federal judges.

Beyond that Trump’s immigration policies have included deporting people on their hospital beds (see this previous post) and generally deporting anyone with a pulse, irrespective of what they do in the US or how long they have been there (note whether it is necessarily a negative thing to deport illegal immigrants is, of course, debatable). In the process families have been split up and lives have been thrown into disarray. In one particularly poetic case, a woman voted for Trump and then her undocumented migrant Mexican husband was ushered out of the country, much to her apparent surprise (?) and dismay. And in another, a Nigerian software engineer was made to prove to US border agents upon arrival at the airport to take up a job in his field in the US that he indeed knew his way around computers, before they would allow him to proceed and even though he had all the necessary visas and paperwork.

In the eyes of many, US immigration has reached new lows under Trump. A look at history shows that 4 and a half decades ago, someone equally as white nationalism fuelled beat the Donald to it by doing basically what he is doing now. His counterpart of yesteryear was described by one former Commonwealth Secretary-General as using “petty apartheid arrangements to keep the majority black population on the margins of society”. He said that black people would only be capable of “irresponsible rule”, referred to white Christians ruling Africa as their “birthright” and was convinced that European influence needed to continue unabated in Africa (and Asia for that matter) because the inhabitants of those countries sorely needed it. On a side note, it’s interesting to note that such is a stance must be the inspiration for Indian-American Conservative talking head Dinesh D’Souza and his much publicized view that colonialism was a praiseworthy phenomenon and that, in his native India, the problem with British colonialism was not that it happened, but rather that it didn’t last longer.

In September 1971 the illegitimate white minority government of Rhodesia adopted a policy of refusing entry to black, mixed and Asian workers. Formed in 1922 as the new “local” white-led incarnation of a London-commanded British colonial regime that had been in place since the very end of the 19th century, this government was doubly illegitimate. In the first place, it was made up of foreign usurpers of African land and so could not lay claim to any epistemological legitimacy. Secondly, after choosing to remain within the British Empire in 1922 as a dominion or self-governing territory within the Empire, it had taken it upon itself to suddenly declare independence from Britain in 1965, without following any of the channels that should have been followed. This was called the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).

So even within the illegitimate colonial context it was illegal. One can almost see Smith like Achan from the book of Joshua in the Bible who, when the Israelites attacked the Amorites, secretly “took of the accursed thing” and carted away booty that he should not have, just as Smith within a context of stealing land and massacring natives, declared an independence he wasn’t entitled to declare; you can almost hear the British proclaiming that “Israel (Rhodesia) hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff”; listen and you’ll just about hear former UK Prime Minister Harrold Macmillan utter the words “My son, [… ] I pray thee […] tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me” in reaction the news of Smith’s UDI in 1965, with Smith replying and saying of Zimbabwe that “when I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish (Zimbabwean) garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them”.


Below is an excerpt of media accounts of the 1971 Rhodesia immigration crackdown:


Rhodesia Ban.png
Newspaper article title, 8th September, 1971


Salisbury – A Rhodesian government ban on non-white immigration has provoked angry protests among the country’s coloured and Asian people and threatened more racial discord at a critical time in Rhodesia’s history.

A new white-only immigration policy, which has led to the refusal of work permits to highly skilled non-whites and the expulsion of partners in mixed marriages, has emerged at a time when London and Salisbury are about to open a new phase of negotiations to settle the 6-year-old Rhodesian independence deadlock.

Political sources here feel that though the new colour dispute would ne necessarily damage chances of an Anglo-Rhodesian settlement, it would certainly not improve the talks atmosphere.

The government clampdown on non-white immigration came to light when the National Association of Coloured People (NACP) – representing Rhodesia’s 16,500 people of mixed race – sent a declaration to Immigration Minister Peter Van der Byl to ask why work permits were refused to 4 highly-qualified coloureds whose skills could scarcely be spared in Rhodesia.

The 4 were a doctor, a nurse, a diesel mechanic and a teacher. The doctor, a South African, had accepted a post as assistant medical officer of health in Salisbury. The Salisbury City Council knew he was coloured and considered him well-suited for the post.

Previously, the government had allowed a small number of Asians and coloureds into the country on temporary permits, but the NACP delegation was told by Mr. Van der Byl that the ban was now total. “We’re shocked, but at least we know where we stand,” said NACP secretary Eugene Robinson. “We have been trying for years to find out just what the government’s official policy is about the coloured population.”

Reuters, September 8, 1971


“Threatening more racial discord at a critical time in […] history.”

Sound familiar?

“[…] immigration policy, which has led to the refusal of work permits to highly skilled non-whites and the expulsion of partners in mixed marriages.”

Bring anything to mind?

Or how about:

“[…] work permits were refused to 4 highly-qualified coloureds whose skills could scarcely be spared in Rhodesia.”

If this quote doesn’t ring a bell, then you didn’t read the 3rd paragraph of this post about the Nigerian computer guy, which would be odd because then how did you get this far? You wouldn’t dare just skim my masterpiece of elucidation, would you?




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