Mexican border : Initially invisible, the wall became, in forty years, a political object in both parties.
The first wall erected on the border between the United States and Mexico was completed more than a century ago, in 1911. In fact, a simple fence, about thirty kilometers long, designed to prevent livestock Mexican to circulate north and spread a parasite. For several decades and since its course from the War of 1848, the US-Mexico border has not moved. An invisible line crossing rough terrain and winding along the Rio Grande. The crisis of 1929 and its mass unemployment excepted, which caused their share of expulsions of Mexican workers from certain industrial cities, American political power and public opinion have long been hardly concerned by this border, nor by immigrants from the south. Far from Donald Trump’s anxiety-provoking rhetoric and his obsession with the construction of a nine-meter-high concrete or steel continuous wall, which now partially paralyzes US federal administrations.
On the contrary: as early as 1942, the United States will distribute millions of temporary work permits to Mexicans under the Bracero program, to alleviate the shortage of labor in agriculture and the railway with the US military engagement in the Second World War. But paradoxically this program will lead to the erection of new barriers at the border. “It generated an unprecedented flow of migrations from south to north, made up of Braceros but also people who did not fit the criteria of the program, reserved for young and healthy men,” says historian Mary E. Mendoza, a specialist in the US-Mexico border at Penn State University, Pennsylvania. In the 1940s, walls were built to prevent women from crossing the border … “These are the most populated areas that grow grills. The United States ends the Bracero program in 1964. “The following year, we start talking about the” problem of immigration “in the country,” says Mary E. Mendoza.
Mexican immigration to the United States, legal or illegal, continues to increase. And nativism, he makes emulated. The border will gradually materialize as hardened immigration laws. In 1979, under the presidency of Jimmy Carter, new portions of gates, this time capped with barbed wire, were built. Fifteen years later, another Democratic president, Bill Clinton, will continue the work. With three operations (“Gatekeeper” in California, “Safeguard” in Arizona and “Hold the Line” in Texas), more than 300 kilometers of border are now adorned with metal fences. In 2006, George W. Bush made his “Secure Fence Act”, with more than 1,000 kilometers of additional border fenced or reinforced and the doubling of the number of border guards in the country. Barack Obama will invest in technology, including the installation of thermal imaging cameras. Today, one-third of the 3,200-kilometer border from California to Texas, from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, is covered by a wall. “For forty years, the obsession for the control and the security of the border is bipartisan, notes the historian. It has always been on the political agenda of both parties, even though the discussion has been much polarized recently. Contrary to what he would like to believe, Donald Trump is nothing original. ”
Another historian of the border, Benjamin Johnson believes that the 90s are a hinge in the ratio of Americans with their southern neighbors. And especially with the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Alena, now USMCA, a new version that has not yet been voted by the Congress) and “the way it organizes economic integration regional, with the free movement of capital but not workers, “said the professor at Loyola University in Chicago. “At the same time, the Clinton administration is reinforcing the criminalization of illegal immigration, setting the stage for the chaos we see today at the border. On the one hand, authorities trying to control the border with a punitive approach. On the other, companies that want cheap labor and access to southern markets. At least one million Mexican corn producers went bankrupt after the introduction of the Alena. All this led to a strong rural exodus, first to the Mexican cities, then to the United States. “The US-Mexico border is torn by these contradictory injunctions. “Nothing else will work [a wall], and this has been the case for thousands of years,” Donald Trump tweeted in December. It’s like the wheel, there’s nothing better. ”
Yet, says Mary E. Mendoza, “there is no evidence that these walls work. A physical obstacle is always bypassed by movement beings, cows, parasites or humans. As for migration, they do not evolve according to the existence or the height of a wall, but the socio-economic or political conditions of the countries of origin “. These barriers make illegal crossings more expensive and more dangerous for migrants, at the mercy of smugglers and gangs, and force them to stay in the United States once in the country, preventing them from coming and going. “This obsession with the southern border says a lot about American values, the racial question, who has the right or not to be part of American society,” says Mendoza. To the south, it’s like putting a country behind bars. “