Immigration Changes, the Wall, and US/Mexico Relations
By Alejandra Baron
In recent months, we have seen the United States change and attempt to change immigration policies that had remained intact through other presidencies. In essence, migration to and from the United States became more difficult, complicated, and chaotic. Individuals who already had been processed thoroughly, some for months or years, held a valid visa to enter the United States. In the matter of hours, those visas became null and void. In effect, the country who issued those visas now was revoking the privileges and left many stranded in airports, third countries, and without a clear answer of what would be of their fate.
It’s easy to now react and have media coverage regarding the various Executive Orders issued by President Trump. There are also a lot of rumors and false information that is being passed around in particular in social media outlets like Facebook. When people are in fear, its easier to thwart on that fear and push false or inaccurate information. The only way to be protected is to be informed. Be informed of your rights, be informed of what is actually happening, and be informed of what can and cannot be done. As a population, knowledge is our greatest weapon.
Understanding the current status quo will be an effective way to predict what could happen to the relationships between the United States and Mexico. This relationship has not always been friendly and in times has been very rocky, but despite the differences between the two countries, a mutual, beneficial, and respectable relationship was able to form. Now, it seems both countries, not necessarily their leaders, will fight to regain that respect. In a time when migration from Mexico to the United States is at an all-time low, the threat of illegal immigration appears to be at an all-time high. With various calls for more border security and more deportations, it seems logical to those that a wall across the U.S./Mexico border is imperative. Yet, how would some of these measurements really have an impact on “illegal immigration?” Time and time again, research has proven fences, walls, and high tech equipment along the U.S./Mexico border have not made a clear, effective, and/or sizeable contribution in thwarting immigration. In 2003 were the beginnings of a fence/wall and routine border patrol presence along the border was enacted in El Paso, Texas. Although reports initially stated that there was a decrease in illegal immigration in El Paso sector, where the changes were implemented, other sectors had an increase in illegal immigration. It was not that the changes of a wall and constant border patrol presence were deterring immigration in general, the changes were merely moving the flow of immigration elsewhere.
Despite the millions of dollars invested in improving border security, the executive order titled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements was signed by President Trump on January 25, 2017. It did not garner as much press since other executive orders were of more pressing matters. The purpose of the order is to “direct executive departments and agencies to deploy all lawful means to secure the nation’s southern border, to prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely.” (Executive Order No. 13,767, 2017) The Executive Order calls for the building of a physical wall along the southern border of the United States and to allocate the resources including funds to construct and maintain the new border wall. (Executive Order No. 13,767, 2017) The Executive Order also calls for the building of new detention facilities that will be located near the U.S./Mexico border, and to immediately assign immigration judges to those detention facilities. (Executive Order No. 13,767, 2017) Although immigration judges are to be assigned to detention facilities, the order does not state if new judges will be hired or if the already strained, low number of immigration judges will be simply diverted from their current locations.
What is interesting is that Mexico’s immigration rates to the United States have maintained in numbers since 2014 and immigration from Central America surged and passed immigration from Mexico. Despite these facts, the Executive Order mandates a report of all Federal Aid that has been allocated to Mexico annually over the past five years. There was no mention of any reports of aid given to any other country even if they are the largest number of current illegal immigration into the United States.
With all these changes coming, the relations between the United States and Mexico have slowly soured. Mexicans have often felt they are being used for cheap labor both in Mexico and the United States while some like President Trump believe Mexico is stealing jobs from the United States. In particular, the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, is a project Trump has mentioned he would like to renegotiate, but no one knows exactly who would benefit and who would be affected by the renegotiation. One thing to keep in mind is that the individuals taking the head of the renegotiation would be the current presidents, and that becomes worrisome already.
Despite the long history of relationship between the two countries, the future seems uncertain and at risk of deteriorating. The coming changes to immigration and current trade agreements are ones we need to maintain in our radar, and more importantly understand thoroughly to comprehend what those changes and orders dictate. Our most powerful weapon is knowledge in an era when human and civil rights are constantly being threatened.
Exec. Order No. 13767, 3 C.F.R. 8793 (2017).