It’s been a great year for xenophobia. Talks of walls and deportation have dominated the news cycles all over the world during 2016. Sadly Argentina has not been immune to this troubling trend.
A great Argentina specific example was the project to build a detention center for illegal immigrants who committed certain crimes on Argentine soil — which hasn’t moved forward yet but managed to stir up a great deal of controversy. Another came from a report from the TV show Periodismo Para Todos, hosted by Jorge Lanata, looking at how much foreign students attending the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) costs taxpayers along with looking at the number of foreigners who use the Buenos Aires province’s healthcare system. The program capped things off with the reiterated request from Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto to limit immigration from neighboring countries — who rhetorically asked “how much misery can Argentina take?”
The latest worrying case came this week when, at request of the ruling PRO party, the Chamber of Deputies’ Education Committee sent a request to the deans from all the country’s public universities to report the number of foreign students they have attending their facilities, what careers they study and their country of origin. The reason behind this request was never explained, Página 12 reports. When consulted about on the issue, National Deputy Eduardo Amadeo, one of the lawmakers who made the request, said “we want to know who we are giving money to.”
According to Periodismo Para Todos’s report from earlier this year, there are almost 13,000 foreign students fill UBA’s lecture halls. The number represents 4.4 percent of all students, compared to 1.2 percent 20 years ago.
Let’s hope the request stems mere curiosity, rather than being the first step in a plan to charge foreign students for public (undergraduate) education, something that would go against the Constitution — which specifically establishes in its Article 20 that foreigners residing in the country enjoy the same civil rights as an Argentine citizen — and Argentina’s principles as a country.