Mexican Wall

A Symbol of American Arrogance

Mexico’s new elected president Felipe Calderón has scolded George W. Bush for approving a fence at intervals along the 3,200 km border between the US and Mexico. It is, he says, a Mexican Berlin wall.

“Humanity created a huge mistake by building the Berlin wall, and I am sure that today the United States is making a grave mistake by putting up a fence along it border with Mexico,” said Calderón on a recent visit to Canada.

To many historians, the Mexican president’s analogy is a stretch. The American fence will not split a city into two; it will run along five sections where the most immigrants cross. Moreover, the double and triple layer fence, which will cost 2.2 billion dollars, will not be built overnight as people are asleep. It will also probably not divide the world into areas of communist and capitalist influence as the Berlin wall did.

But the Mexican Border Fence will certainly cause some of the other frequent consequences of border walls. It will break up families, making it more difficult for some to return home. This means of course more Mexicans staying in the U.S., not fewer, although some wishful thinkers predict the fence will deter immigration in the long-run.  Spain’s experience with fences could teach them the opposite. Building roadblocks to immigration simply shifts the traffic from one place to another.

“A crackdown by Spain on illegal migrants crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco shifted the traffic to Spain’s Canary Islands,” said a recent report by GlobalSecurity.org. When the government extended the crackdown to the Canaries, “migrants began pouring over border fences in Spain’s enclaves on the North African coast.”

Calderón’s analogy was probably intended to buff up his public image and show how tough he can be with Mexico’s big brother. After all, Calderón has to think about building support after this year’s elections tore the country in two.

But his comparison is correct in one way. Just as with the Berlin Wall, citizens from one side of the border became increasingly better off economically than on the other side. On December 1st, Calderón will take up his position in a country where half of its 107 million population are poor. This is a reality that should make the new government turn its eyes towards the reflection in the mirror, rather than the fence outside the house.

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