President Donald Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep out dangerous, undocumented immigrants, but will a wall be the best way to reduce illegal immigration?
There is already a wall. Fences, concrete barricades, gunboats, drones and SUVs. The border is nearly 2,000 miles long. It includes uninhabited desert, major cities and the Grande River.
Back in 2000 my family and I decided to spend some time in San Diego, California while conducting business in Tijuana, Mexico. As our sons grew up speaking English, San Diego was a convenient location at the time.
We were among the many people crossing the border every day. People cross the border for work, school or holidays. But returning to the US was stressful.
Guns, drones, towers, ground sensors, helicopters, gunboats and dogs to police the border is all around and for what some consider militarisation rather than security.
There are dozens of official entry points along the border. The increased security means it can take hours from a distance of less than a mile to enter the US again. The US spends billions every year on their so-called protection.
CROSSING THE BORDER ILLEGALLY
Back in the 1980s, my mum knew a family who decided to cross the border illegally. The couple had two toddlers at the time, and even though the husband was getting a good income in building construction, he thought the US was the best way to provide a better life for his family.
He along with other friends hired a 'coyote.' A 'coyote' is someone who helps them cross the border, but these people could have ties with drug dealers and rape and abuse are common.
He started the journey leaving his wife and children behind, knowing that he was taking a significant risk. His wife didn't hear from him for months, but eventually, he contacted her and asked her to join him. She and her two toddlers started a painful journey.
Crossing the border unlawfully means walking for days on end under the sun, over some rugged terrain. It means exhaustion and dehydration. Thousands have been found dead attempting to cross the border.
If they manage to cross, they face an entire apparatus of Customs and Border Patrol, the largest federal enforcement agency in the nation.
We didn't hear from them for a long time but, eventually, the wife contacted my mum telling her that they settled in Los Angeles. As we had plans to go to Disneyland with our sons, we invited my parents to come along, my mum took the opportunity to visit that family.
We met them at their home in the Mexican community. They lived and still lived among Mexicans, and they told us the horrid stories of what they went through.
They lived all the time in fear of being found and deported; they felt they were in jail and never dared to mix with the Americans. Husband and wife work as cleaners in wherever they could find a job to support their family.
Luckily, for that family, and after proving that they were good workers and good citizens they have legalised their papers. They saved to buy a home and their children are free of any concerns. Finally, they are free to live in the US.
ARE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES ONLY IN THE US?
Many believe the US is where one can achieve success through hard work. They think it is the country with economic opportunities. However, economic opportunities are everywhere.
A wall is not the answer to reducing illegal immigration. Not every one that crosses the border is a drug dealer or criminal. Most people are looking to provide a better quality of life for their families.
Would it be ideal if Mexicans and many Latin Americans could travel with confidence to visit their relatives across the border, unrestricted back and forth for visits, shopping, entertainment and jobs? It could reunite people, heal their anxiety, and increase compassion.
Could a solution be to reduce the incentive for people to go to the US by creating more ways to work lawfully? Most of them go to work for plenty of unfilled jobs. Perhaps, a program letting migrants move back and forth legally will reduce the ability for lawbreakers and trafficker 'coyotes' to exploit vulnerable migrants.
WHAT ABOUT THE BUREAUCRATIC ISSUES?
The US has signed treaties with Mexico, and it can't build on the Rio Grande flood plains. In addition to that, much of the border in Texas is privately owned, and not everyone wants a giant wall in their backyard.
In addition to that, the US-Mexico border has a delicate ecosystem with regular animal and bird migrations moving between the north and south of the American continent. Scientists are warning of the potential for severe ecological consequences if the wall goes ahead.
Sealing off the border would also affect the economies of border towns and affect the broader US-Mexican economy. Many Mexican areas are home to US factories employing thousands of people, and Mexican shoppers spend billions of dollars in US border states every year.
The supply of cheap labour in Mexico has also fuelled the rise of manufacturing plants - known as maquiladora - along the border. These maquiladoras - or maquilas, for short - enjoy tax breaks and produce and export goods, a legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement which came into force in 1994, scrapping many tariffs between the US, Canada and Mexico.
The wall could also impact on the more comprehensive US-Mexico economic relationship too. Mexico is America’s second largest export market, and America is Mexico’s most extensive.
Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute, says: "The two countries have a “profound” economic relationship at the think-tank Wilson Center, with five million US jobs depending on it. "
The Wilson Center’s research suggests that if trade between the US and Mexico were halted, 4.9 million Americans would be out of work. The two economies are now so interconnected, Mr Wilson says, that they no longer just sell finished products to each other, but instead “actually build products together.”
Mr Wilson says, “Parts are moved across the border, sometimes multiple times in the course of production,” he says. “Both the United States and Mexico are contributing to the value of products that are ultimately sold in the region or exported to the rest of the world. At the deepest level, we are in it together.”
ILLEGAL BORDER HAS DECLINED
According to The New York Times, Illegal border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades. In 2017, border-crossing apprehensions were at their lowest point since 1971.
However, there is one group of migrants that is on the rise: families. The recent phenomenon due to poor economic conditions and violence in Central American countries is what is generating today's flows - a wall does little to address these issues.
These people are seeking work or asylum and Mexico, under its new government, has begun to enlarge its asylum capabilities and offer work opportunities to Central America.
The US aid package for Mexico and Central America reflects the desire to ease immigration pressures and reinforce Mexico's efforts to provide protection and work for migrants from those countries. The United States and Mexico are crucial players in advancing and supporting better tomorrows in these countries. And it will save billions of dollars to taxpayers.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
I feel for those people from Central America. And Mexico is doing the best they can to help them. But it is a fact that stress and a system that exploits people make them unfulfilled and overworked which stops them to achieve their highest potential.
We all have a tremendous potential that lies within ourselves, but most of us lack the life skills required to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. There is an enormous potential that lies within ourselves.
We can create a life of freedom, competent, and total control. We can do a lot in the world by creating wealth and abundance not only for ourselves but also for our communities and those around us.
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