Written by Carlos D. Conde
There is an old Mexican saying by one of its former presidents, the legendary seven-term President Porfirio Diaz, 1876-19ll, who even back then had coined the apropos adage about his country’s relation with its neighbor, the United States.
“Tan legos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos,” he sighed over some border issues with the United States. (“So far from God and so close to the United States.”)
It’s been a bone of contention between the two countries ever since, and it seems to not be getting any better with a combative Donald Trump as the incoming U.S. president.
One of Trump’s promises was that he was going to hold Mexico accountable for its transgressions with the U.S. throughout their neighborly history like their border/immigration issues, which according to him, hasn’t been neighborly at all.
Trump in his campaign railed against the U.S.’s neighbor over trade but in particular over the unseemly illegal immigration, which according to him, was festered with Mexican rapists and drug-running criminals.
He said he would build a border wall to keep them all out.
In the meantime, candidate Trump was invited in pre-election August for some tequilas and good diplomacy to Mexico City by Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto who once compared Trump’s rhetoric to that of Adolf Hitler.
Trump nevertheless was charmed by Pena Nieto and the Mexican community saying afterwards, “wonderful people, high quality people.”
Pena Nieto said the invitation was “in the interest of democracy and to create a dialogue” as if harboring a feeling that Trump might achieve the then unthinkable and beat Hillary Clinton in November, and the relationship might need some nourishing.
In the time between Trump’s visit to Mexico and his surprising election victory, Pena Nieto had said that inviting Trump had been a mistake, and he regretted it in the wake of loud criticism from his constituents. Now he’s coupled with dealing with Trump’s torments and threatening policies and enduring his peoples’ disenchantment.
Back then not many thought this would happen except for Trump, and now Mexico has the unexpected and discomforting task of confronting Trump, the president elect, on some of his more abrasive immigrant policies and enforcement aimed primarily at Mexicans.
It may not be that high on Trump’s to-do list, and he will probably be preoccupied with other chief executive matters more demanding than chasing illegal Mexicans back across the border.
Trump’s border wall, ludicrous as it may seem to Mexico and others, would be like The Great Wall of China—with lesser dimensions (supposedly 2,000 miles to China’s 13,500)—to exist like China’s in perpetuity as one of the world’s wonders but with debatable purpose and accomplishments.
“We will build a wall along the southern border, and Mexico will pay for the wall 100 percent.” Trump said during the presidential campaign.
“I would build it, and nobody builds walls better than me,” he added. According to his projections, the wall would require 339 million cubic feet of concrete (or three times what was used to build the Hoover Dam), reach up to 50 feet, cost about $10 billion (or maybe go as high as $25 billion) and stretch from Texas to California.
Trump isn’t too happy with U.S.-Mexico trade either and says he wants to renegotiate or eliminate the U.S.-Mexico signature pact, The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA, (including Canada), which he calls the worst trade deal in history.
Curbing the illegal drug trade, which stems mostly across the porous U.S.-Mexico border, is a more vexing problem, and Mexico hasn’t done much to stem it, which frustrates the U.S.’s interdiction efforts and hampers the bi-lateral relations.
The incoming U.S. president has not elaborated on any novel interdiction efforts except for the multi-purposed great border wall, which the drug runners would find an easy challenge.
The irony of all this is that the passion for Mexicans migration to the U.S., legal or otherwise, has subsided, and many are returning to their homeland where the living standards have improved.
In 2016, there were 5.8 million Mexican illegals in the U.S. (down from 6.4 million in 2009) while the rate increased for those from Central America, Asia and sub-Sahara Africa.
President elect Trump may still build the wall, and if he does, it might make it, like The Great Wall of China, a testimony to a futile geopolitical reality. •