Our southern border

It’s been a long time coming but the crisis on our southern border was one that could have been anticipated – and some did — for decades.

The history of U.S. and Mexico relations is full of scars, easily exploited by demagogues in moments of crisis – whether the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) [hardly noted by “North” Americans but a bitter memory of invasion by Mexicans], the expropriation of Mexican oil [William F. Buckley Jr. of National Review’s family’s ownership, for example]. The powerful, corrupt and inefficient state company that took its place with its troubled relations with U.S. oil companies, and the growing effort by Mexico to use the 40-million Mexican Americans as its lobby, are all part of an intricate and vast network of relationships.

The contrast with our northern neighbor could not be greater – the Anglophone and other traditions we share with English-speaking Canadians and even the domestic Ottawa triangulation that has been a resource for Québec nationalists.
Taking time out from his pursuit of reporting of Asian politics and economics, the veteran newsman Sol W, Sanders’ Mexico : chaos on our doorstep [Imprint: Lanham, MD : Madison Books, c1986. Physical description: xiii, 222 p. ; 24 cm.] tried a quarter of a century ago to present the crisis’ inevitability.

If Sanders’ pessimism about Mexico economic development was overdone, the border problems for Mexico City rulers created even by a more prosperous and industrialized southern trading partner were not exaggerated. In fact, it could be argued that increasingly Mexico’s industrialization, often with its “twin-plant” ties between Mexican and U.S. manufacturers, had only increased and intensified the border issues.

It seems unlikely that the current crisis – putting together a delineation on paper of a critical juncture of the border and enlarging the officialdom needed to police it – will be accomplished quickly. That, curiously enough, is not the result of opposition to the generally preferred solutions with either the White House Republicans, their GOP Party critics, or the Democrats with their control of the House of Representatives.

The problem, in fact, may not exist – or at least be easily defined — in the sense that traffic across the border at any given point is so massive as to self-regulate. Furthermore, with the huge Spanish-speaking U.S. population, and a significant either English-speaking or constituency which otherwise knows the U.S. intimately, the liaisons between interest groups is so great that it defies the kind of narrow regulatory framework that exists between the U.S. and most other countries.

But there is and will be great friction.

The president said in his first formal national address from the Oval Office that a wall was needed to stem a “growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border”, involving “thousands of illegal immigrants”. He pointed to illegal drug supplies, people trafficking and criminal acts by illegal immigrants into the U.S. that are a product of the “undocumented” portion of the immigration.

There were 12 million immigrants living in the country illegally as of January 2015, according to the most recent estimate from the Department of Homeland Security. Mexicans make up the majority of the undocumented population — 55 percent in 2015, according to DHS — but the number and share of Mexicans among this population has been declining in recent years.

“If we don’t have a barrier… you’re not going to be able to solve this problem,” Trump said, adding that people faced “hard work”, “grueling problems” and “a lot of death” without it.

The President added: “They say a wall is medieval… There are some things that work.”

Trump said he never meant that Mexico would make a one-time payment for the wall.

“When I said Mexico would pay for the wall in front of thousands and thousands of people… obviously I never meant Mexico would write a check,” he said.

The Democrats say the wall is “ineffective” and “unnecessary” and an expensive bill to taxpayers that the president had said Mexico would foot.

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