South Africa’s Parliament, in a landmark vote last week, moved to amend the nation’s constitution to allow for the government to seize land from white South Africans without compensation.
The controversial decision has sparked questions about what might happen to the white South African farmers who currently own the land, and how the land would be redistributed by the government.
As a result of the vote, more than 16,000 people have petitioned Donald Trump to let the Boers (South Africans of Dutch, German or Huguenot heritage) into the U.S.
At first glance, that might seem like a compassionate, kind thing to do. But the language in the petition makes it clear that those petitioning want white South Africans to jump the proverbial line when it comes to immigration to the U.S., at a cost to immigrants of darker hues.
According to Newsweek, the online petition at Change.org calls on the Trump administration to “take the steps necessary to initiate an emergency immigration plan allowing white Boers to come to the United States.” Importantly, the petition also asks the U.S. to stop admitting refugees from Somalia and the Middle East under claim that they “cannot be properly vetted.” The petition calls for Trump to let in the displaced white South African farmers instead.
It bears repeating that every single person entering the U.S. as a refugee has to go through a lengthy background-check process that can take up to two years. A New York Times article on the process reports that there are about 20 steps in total, involving multiple interviews, applications, agencies and screenings.
Another petition on the White House page has 8,000 signatures and similarly calls for white South Africans to be given “immigration priority” over those leaving other countries.
“White South African Farmers facing genocide in their home land should be given priority as they not only face extinction in their homelands but also stand as a primary example of the kind of immigrants we would want here in our own country,” reads the petition, which adds that Boers are preferable because “they speak English and share a common ancestry and way of life as our own.”
The claims of white genocide have been repeated with increasing frequency recently. In October 2017, protesters consisting mostly of white South Africans marched throughout the country to protest a string of deadly attacks in rural areas. Many claimed that white farmers were more likely to die than the average South African.
Murders on farms in South Africa are at their highest level since 2010-2011, according to a BBC report from November of last year: South African police say that 74 people were murdered on farms between April 2016 and March 2017. The year before, that number was 58.
But those numbers reflect the “total number of murdered farmers, farmworkers and visitors to farms regardless of race,” Newsweek reports. The same BBC report also found that the claim that farmers were more likely to be murdered than the average South African “is not supported by reliable data.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who ran with land reform as a key part of his platform, has tried to reassure those concerned about the landmark vote. The South African Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department also tried to allay fears, tweeting that the massive policy change will be handled “through dialogue and in a stable manner.”
“Land is our heritage, our identity and essentially our dignity. We owe it to our children to dispel the myth that Africans are not interested in commercial farming,” the CGTA wrote, before adding, “No need for beating war drums and creating unnecessary panic! South Africa belongs to all who live in it!
“As we address the land issue, we’ll ensure that equitable land is distributed to our poor people in a way that will ensure continued stability,” the CGTA wrote.