“Why are we separated?” A question that many Mexicans and a few Americans ask themselves. They acknowledge the giant, sometimes metaphorical, wall that separated both countries long before president Donald Trump promised to “build a wall with Mexico and make them pay for it”. It is not only a physical divide, but also a cultural one, a mere reminder of the things that once joined the two nations. Looking at the wall makes you think about how the same air flows through the huge steel bars, how close both countries are, but how distant the wall can make them feel.
Before the 20th century, no wall existed. Mexicans and Americans could easily visit each other, helping to foster a cultural union between the border towns. The best evidence of this is the strong Mexican influence in American towns along the border.
So what happened? Between the end of the 20th century and the early years of the current one, Mexico and Central America faced a series of economic and political issues. The United States, in comparison, seemed like the perfect country; less poverty, well-paid jobs, and many opportunities. So, many people crossed the border, hoping to make their life in the States. The American government tried to find a way to curb the number of immigrants crossing. Therefore, in 2006, President George W. Bush signed the “Secure Fence Act” and stated “This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure. It is an important step towards immigration reform.
Those were the beginnings of the construction of a 1100 km fence, now under extension to reach 3360 km. In addition to the fence, the border is further secured with countless sensors, cameras and border patrol officers anywhere surrounding the wall. What is the price? Millions of dollars: taxpayers’ money. And the social cost is unquantifiable.
The wall is not only on the border, but also goes through cities, towns, and customs. Sometimes it takes the form of natural obstacles, like deadly deserts and large, fast-flowing rivers. The saddest thing? The only way for an illegal immigrant to enter is through these dangerous zones, where border patrol presence is minimum. Most die on their way; some of thirst, others because of the extreme temperatures of the desert, and some, brave enough to cross the river, drown. Criminal gangs often kill many of them, whose only hope was to reach the American dream.
In response, there exist many organizations to help immigrants in risk by providing them with water bottles, shelter, or just by reminding them of the dangers they will have to face when trying to cross the border.
Over the last years, immigration flows from Central America have increased while at the same time, Mexicans are coming back to Mexico. To prevent people from first crossing into Mexico and then into the US, the American government has given Mexico 75 million dollars to build a wall along Mexico’s southern border. This will make the journey for Central or South Americans even more strenuous.
Despite the construction of a new fence, or an expansion of the already existing ones, illegal immigration will be difficult to curtail. Immigrants will always find other ways to get to the US. Further reinforcing the border only makes the journey harder and more dangerous.