BUENOS AIRES — 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.Keep in mind that most South American countries were long very welcoming of immigrants, partly because they were underpopulated (if you ignore the Indians) and sought larger populations to spread costs across: there are fixed costs to operating a government regardless of population. Spreading those costs over 10x as many taxpayers is thus a win.
In some cases, they were making up for catastrophic historical mistakes. Paraguay's 19th century strongman "El Supremo," started wars with three neighbors at once. By the time he was done, 90% of the adult male population was dead. Hence Paraguay's willingness to accept German Jews fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s, and then Nazis after World War II.
I have read that Argentina until the 1940s was at about the same economic development level as Canada. Argentina also liked to imagine itself as the only white republic south of the Rio Grande.