The Still Very Porous U.S.-Mexico Border

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryI saw the 60 Minute special on a place in the U.S. border wall where Chinese nationals were easily getting through a break in the border wall and barbed wire to try and turn themselves in for political asylum. Yes, there is no doubt that there are people who are gaming the U.S. immigration system to stay in America. Yet, at the same time, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are genuinely trying to get into the United States to escape persecution, violence and war. What the 60 Minute segment did not show was that there are other gaps in the border region rather than this one in particular. What the 60 Minute segment also did not show is that the majority of those trying to get into the United States are primarily from the Americas—especially from southern Mexico, Central America, South America (especially Venezuela) and the Caribbean. Additionally, the segment did not show that people from Turkey are fleeing that country because of its authoritarian government and the instability of the economy.

All of this adds to an aggravated situation where the United States, along with the European Union, are both facing peoples from the Third World fleeing their homelands for a better life at any price. What I know of the U.S. border region is that it has always been a huge porous place where the terrain has steep mountains, deserts, deep river canyons, and the very Rio Grande River which can and does change from one location to the next. Those who say we should “secure the border” do not realize that this border is 2,000 miles long and have places where no human has stepped in for years. If anyone is caught in any of these inhospitable areas they could drop dead and their bodies may not be found until months or years later if they are found at all. What many Americans well away from the border do not realize is that the U.S. government has deployed over the decades all kinds of means to secure the border. These range from a vast road network to heat sensors to drones to guard towers to keep tabs on the border where it is possible.

What is not always available is the manpower to deal with the situation. Just as equally an issue is the fact that most decision-making is made in Washington, D.C. The capital and the lawmakers are 2,000 miles away from the border, and some of them have little to no idea about the dynamic of the border region. Also in this whole mix is the fact that there are towns, villages, cities and Native American reservations that are on the border as well. American inhabitants of these border places have had close contact and interaction with their Mexican counterparts for almost two centuries, and it then becomes a balancing act for the U.S. government to deal with the border issue without kicking around the peoples in the border region. So what happens more often than not is that in some places the border area seems unsecured while in other areas the American residents in the border area are kicked around by the heavy-handed approach of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress seems more interested in playing politics instead of trying to deal with whatever security issues there may be at the U.S.-Mexico border. While the Democrats may not have the answers for how to deal with the border issue, it seems that many of the Republican lawmakers are more interested in scoring political points than with trying to realistically deal with the border region. It seems that if a lot of Republican lawmakers do not get their way then they will not vote for a package deal that may work. In other words it is “our way or the highway.” This only makes a tough situation that much worse, and I wish all parties would get political campaigning out of the whole process in order to try to deal with the situation at the border. But what the lawmakers should realize is that there is no quick fix, and no real one size fits all. The U.S.-Mexico border has its own set of problems that simplistic solutions cannot change, and the rest of America will have to understand that what has been going on in the border region has and will go on for a long time to come.

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