Likes Mexico America

Wall between the USA and Mexico : Isolation has a long tradition

“I'm going to build a fence. We'll shut it down and say: Listen, José, you can't come in here! ”The words could come from US President Donald Trump. But they are more than twenty years old. Conservative politician Pat Buchanan said so when he ran for the Republican presidential run in 1996. “José”, for him, that was all immigrants from Mexico. Buchanan compared his plan to the construction of the "Great Wall of China".

Back then, the proposal was made fun of in Mexico. Who would build the "Great Wall" if not the Mexicans who toiled on low wages in the US? This joke can also be heard again in Mexico since Donald Trump announced the construction of the “great wall” on the border with Mexico.

Not Trump, but Bill Clinton began building the wall

As new and radical as much of what Trump is proposing sounds, he often only takes up ideas that have a long tradition in the USA. Based on the border with Mexico, the USA has been conducting its own debate about the dominant culture for 170 years. South of the border, conservatives usually locate everything that stands in contrast to the heroic self-image of the hardworking white man of Anglo-Saxon origin: laziness, falsehood, the sexual and the criminal.

But Hollywood also likes to use them. The southern border there is often the dividing line between light and dark, between order and anarchy: from Orson Wells' "Touch of Evil" (1958) to the horror thriller "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996). It goes without saying that you want to isolate yourself from it.

Trump's rhetoric may sound extreme, but it wasn't he who started building the Wall in Mexico, it was Bill Clinton. The Democrat ordered the rearmament of the border in the mid-1990s and laid the foundation for what Donald Trump now wants to accomplish.

The sinking effect of the US economy is bigger than the wall

Shortly after his election in 1993, Clinton said: "We will make it harder for illegal immigrants to come to our country." That resonated with large parts of the insecure white majority, who then turned to "nativism". This ideology, which insists on the privileges of whites, is always strong in times of economic upheaval. Donald Trump's “Make America great again” also cleverly evokes the image of America before the wave of immigration from Latin America.

In 1994, US reservists erected a barrier made of 180,000 steel plates between the border towns of San Diego and Tijuana. The Border Patrol has been expanded and equipped with the latest surveillance technology. The goal was: "The border must be brought under control." With Donald Trump it sounds like this today: "Without a border there is no country." Then as now, this rhetoric has one goal: The public should get the impression that the border must be saved.

The practical rationale behind Clinton's construction of the Wall was that it would deter many immigrants. The remaining stream would be diverted to remote areas, where it would finally run dry. Of course that didn't work. The pull of the US economy on poverty-driven workers from the South was and is stronger. The rearmament fueled the rise of professional human smuggling organizations and the rise in power of the Mexican drug cartels.

In 1848 nothing more than a line in the sand

Even more serious is the death of the thousands of people who died of thirst in the deserts of the border area while trying to run to the United States. What the Mediterranean is to refugees from Africa, the desert is today to migrants from Latin America: a huge grave.

Last year the film “Desierto” by Jonás Cuarón came out, which portrays the border region as a death trap. The danger in the thriller comes less from the sun than from a self-appointed border sheriff who shoots undocumented immigrants. This has a real background: for years, paramilitary groups have been hunting migrants on the border. If you want to find out something about this situation, you have to watch the documentary "Cartel Land" by Matthew Heinamann. He follows such a unit very closely. It can be assumed that all of its members are Trump voters.

But how did the US-Mexico border become this ideologically and mythically charged institution? When it was arbitrarily drawn by Washington in 1848, it was nothing more than an abstract line in the sand. The United States had previously won a two-year war against Mexico, which ended with the annexation of what is now the US Southwest. Now the new masters set about forcibly expropriating the Mexican landowners. The conflicts reached their peak during the Mexican Revolution when Pancho Villa attacked Columbus, Texas in 1916.

Mexicans have been blamed for the lack of jobs

These events shaped the idea of ​​the border as a place of lawlessness. Countless westerns have picked them up. For example the “Wild Bunch” (1969) by Sam Peckinpah, which is epoch-making because of its brutality, or the equally violent “No Country for Old Men” (2007) by the Coen brothers.

With the end of the Mexican Revolution, the border region initially calmed down. The US posed the question of its social identity elsewhere. Again the similarity to today is amazing. Donald Trump has ordered that people from seven Muslim countries no longer receive a US visa. But as early as 1924, the US Congress passed the National Origins Act, which severely curtailed immigration from southern and eastern Europe. It was an expression of resentment against Jewish and Catholic immigrants.

This early nativism also turned against the Mexicans during the Great Depression of 1929, who were blamed for the lack of jobs. In restaurants you could see signs saying “No Dogs or Mexicans”. The first big wave of deportations followed. Up to a million Mexicans were made across the border. It is a scenario that Donald Trump now envisions, who wants to expel an estimated eleven million illegal immigrants. To this day, this policy has had one effect above all: The labor of the rightsless and threatened workers becomes cheaper, and the US economy and consumers benefit from it.

The border had become a revolving door

When the Second World War led to a shortage of male workers, Washington decided to launch a guest worker program. Between 1942 and 1964, up to five million Mexican men entered the United States legally, women were excluded. One farmer commented: "We used to have slaves, now we hire them from the government."

In 1954 another wave of deportations followed with “Operation Wetback”. Politicians and the media accused Mexicans of bringing murder, prostitution and drug trafficking into the country. Now they have been tracked down on farms, construction sites, in factories and restaurants and deported. Many were back in the fields of California only a little later. The border had become a revolving door for the workers from Mexico. There was a need for cheap labor: pure. There was a crisis: out.

During the oil crisis in the mid-1970s, the Mexicans were once again found to be the perfect scapegoat. President Gerald Ford said, “The biggest problem is, how do we get rid of those six to eight million strangers?” His attorney general added, “There will be 120 million Mexicans by the end of the century. We don't have enough bullets to stop them. "

Trump's racism and the wall are nothing new

The invasion of the invasion from the south was joined in the seventies by fear of a Mexican separatist movement in the US Southwest. The then CIA director warned that the Mexican-Americans could claim the annexed territories. This fear still exists today.

So Donald Trump's racism and his wall are nothing new. But in his megalomania he has taken the discourse to a new level. He wants to seal off the entire border to 3200 kilometers - it is the air line between Madrid and Moscow. And he also sees the wall as an economic protective wall. If the building of Clinton's Wall was also a consequence of the Nafta free trade agreement, because the economic delimitation had aroused fears of immigration flows and increasing drug trafficking, Trump is pursuing a new isolationism. Not only Mexicans should be excluded, but also products from Mexico. The primacy of the wall follows the primacy of free trade under Trump.

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