Our current president who just moved into government-subsidized housing in Washington, D.C. said during the campaign that Mexico was sending rapists and criminals to the U.S. I’ve met with many people here in Nogales that have just been deported from the U.S. They’ve told me, often with tears in their eyes, that they made the risky journey to the U.S. in search of work so that they could provide for their families back home in Mexico or Central America.
President Trump’s racism and lies are very offensive and troubling, but racism and an inability to tell the truth have a long bipartisan history in the White House and congress. He plans to continue, and expand, the border enforcement policies that were developed by his predecessors.
The spouse of the candidate that received three million votes more than Trump built the initial Nogales Wall in 1994 – the same year that the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented. Bill Clinton worked very hard during his first year in office to push NAFTA through Congress.
NAFTA enabled U.S. corporations to more easily establish assembly plants in Mexico where the minimum wage is now just $4 per day. It also enabled U.S. agribusiness to sell subsidized corn at prices so low that Mexican farmers could not compete. Two million farmers lost their lands in Mexico during the first 10 years of NAFTA.
Landless farmers and impoverished workers crossed into the U.S. in order to provide for their families and the Clinton administration responded by creating the first national strategy for the Border Patrol: “Prevention through Deterrence.” The goal was to “Raise the risk…to the point that many will consider it futile to attempt illegal entry… Illegal traffic will be deterred, or forced over more hostile terrain, less suited for crossing.”
The bodies of more than 7,000 people have been recovered along the southern border since that policy was implemented.
The president that Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state replaced the initial Nogales Wall with a taller and stronger wall in 2011 – at a cost of $4.1 million per mile. During that same time, the Obama administration spent $187 million to modernize the Mariposa port-of-entry to make it easier for hundreds of diesel trucks to cross daily with products made in the assembly plants of Nogales.
“Free trade” agreements like NAFTA enable capital to easily cross borders in the search for higher profit but do not allow workers to cross those same borders in order to provide for their families. There are nearly 100 assembly plants in Nogales that employ 37,000 workers. It appears that the primary purpose of the Nogales Wall is to keep workers on the cheaper side of the wall and continuing to assemble products for U.S. corporations.
The Obama administration also invested in the technology used by Israel to enforce borders on the Palestinian people. Elbit Systems was paid $23 million to construct seven surveillance towers along the Nogales section of the border. Those towers give the Border Patrol complete radar control of the border and feature long-range cameras and night observation systems to detect people that are attempting to cross into the U.S. to escape from poverty and violence.
“Because we live in an age where terrorists are challenging our borders, we cannot allow people to pour into the U.S. undetected, undocumented and unchecked,” said the previous president during his first campaign in 2008. He went on to forcibly remove 2.7 million people of color from the country during his eight years in office.
Donald Trump wants to surpass that record set by Barack Obama. This makes it even more necessary now to confront racism and lies, and to act in solidarity with the people that are suffering from U.S. economic and immigration policies.
Scott Nicholson serves as a volunteer with the Hogar de Esperanza y Paz (Home of Hope and Peace) community center in Nogales, Mexico. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.