Trump’s walls

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The most effective wall that the 45th President of the United States has built is not made of concrete or steel. It is a relentless network of executive actions, administrative orders and agreements with other countries obtained under threat that have managed to stop legal and illegal immigration. The barriers erected in these four years have affected tens of thousands of people

Donald Trump has not been able to fulfill the great promise of the campaign that brought him to the White House in 2016. He has not built the wall along the entire southern border, that catchy slogan (We’re going to build a wall, and Mexico will pay for it[VamosaconstruirunmuroyMéxicovaapagarlo[VamosaconstruirunmuroyMéxicovaapagarlo) that he repeated tirelessly in electoral events four years ago to appeal to his most nationalist base, and that experts warned impossible due to an orography of more than 3,100 kilometers of mountains, rivers and private ranches that divide the United States and Mexico.

During the Trump administration, at least 597 kilometers of border barriers have been erected, 90% of them to replace old fences, a spokesman for the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP, for its acronym in English) to EL PAÍS. The Agency assures that the construction “has helped to curb the behaviors and activities of traffickers” and the crossings of undocumented immigrants. However, the wall, which before Trump arrived at the White House already stretched for a third of the border, does not seem the most efficient technique to prevent migration: during the first half of his term there were a record number of arrivals to the United States, mainly from Central American families who crossed Mexico fleeing a cocktail of poverty, violence and lack of opportunities in their countries of origin. And with the dream that in the north, with work, they could ensure a future for their children.

But that does not mean that the president has not achieved his goal. Through a series of decrees, regulatory changes, brutal policies such as separating children from their parents at the border, and agreements with third countries, Trump has created a series of barriers to legal and illegal migration and, with unexpected help of the coronavirus, has managed to virtually close the southern border to those who came to the US seeking refuge.

THE COUNTRY traveled to the remote areas of the border where the fence against the clock is being built, causing severe damage to the environment and ancestral territories of great cultural value for indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, the painstakingly constructed administrative walls from the White House offices have shifted the persecution of migration to southern countries, leaving tens of thousands of immigrants in limbo and hitting the right of asylum in the United States that, According to experts, it could take years to reverse.

They were there before Mexico and the United States. And, of course, they were there long before the first fence was erected, a rudimentary barrier that was built between Tijuana and San Diego in 1989, the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Tohono O’odham and the Kumiai are two binational original nations that live divided by imaginary lines that the countries called borders and that over time became physical barriers, those that separate California, in the United States, from Baja California (Mexico) and Arizona of Sonora. Now, with the extension of the wall promoted by Donald Trump, these indigenous groups, together with environmental organizations, have denounced destruction in areas that they consider sacred and alterations in the environment that can have profound consequences for the migration of fauna, and even lead to the disappearance of species.

When Trump arrived at the White House, there were about 1,100 kilometers of border wall between Mexico and the United States: from fences to stop the passage of undocumented immigrants in areas near urban centers to bollards that prevented the transfer of cars in the most remote places. In his 2016 campaign, the Republican mogul promised to build a wall 1,600 kilometers from the border. Over time, it was lowering its objectives to just over 800 kilometers. So far, Washington has built 597 kilometers and, by the end of the year, they intend to reach 724. But Mexico has not paid a dollar for it, despite the fact that the president continues to repeat it in his campaign events. In fact, his struggle to obtain financing for his star work led the Government to close the longest Administration in its history to pressure Congress to give it the necessary resources and also declared a national emergency on the border to divert funds from others. departments. Furthermore, a recent investigation of Proposal and The Texas Tribune revealed that infrastructure is costing US taxpayers billions of dollars more than the initial contracts anticipated.

The indigenous villages of Guatemala that for decades they have sent their youth north in search of the American dream, almost as a ritual of passage to maturity, in 2018 they began to receive calls informing them of the death of children and adolescents in the custody of US immigration agencies. They also heard cases of undocumented minors who fell ill after crossing the border and did not receive the necessary assistance. A family, that of Claudia Patricia Gómez, a 20-year-old from San Juan Ostuncalco, in Quetzaltenango, had to bury their daughter’s body after she was shot in the head by a Border Patrol agent. Since Trump’s arrival at the White House, the news about the “inhuman treatment” in the detention centers has been on the rise, recalls Pedro Pablo Solares, a Guatemalan lawyer who has spent years studying the migratory patterns of his countrymen in the United States. terror to deter migration was one of the first strategies of the US government to build virtual walls, but not the most effective.

The most efficient wall that Donald Trump has built is not made of concrete or steel, nor is it several meters high. It is a gruesome tangle of executive actions, administrative orders and agreements with third countries that the Administration of the 45th president of the United States reached through threats and that has managed to stop legal and illegal immigration.

“The Trump Administration has managed to redefine the US immigration system dramatically since coming to power in January 2017, both through far-reaching changes, which have had great public repercussion, and technical adjustments that have gone more unnoticed,” it reads in a report from the Migration Policy Institute published last July that compiles more than 400 executive actions on immigration carried out by the Government.

In addition to changes in the system for receiving asylum seekers at the southern border, reductions in the number of refugees hosted by the United States, entry bans for citizens of certain countries, restrictions on visas, obstacles to obtaining residency and even orders to dismiss asylum cases for those fleeing gender-based or gang violence; The Trump administration disempowered the immigration judges, filled the appeals courts with magistrates appointed by its attorney general, and tried to remove protection from undocumented immigrants rooted in the country such as the dreamersThousands of young people who were brought to the United States by their parents as children and to whom former President Barack Obama offered immigration relief. Many of these measures have been challenged in the courts, which have reversed some of them, while others remain in dispute.

The arrival of the xenophobic discourse at the White House sowed fear in the country’s undocumented communities. Advised by Stephen Miller, a 35-year-old Californian who has been linked to white supremacism and is considered the main architect of tougher policies on the border, Trump also tried to use fear as a deterrent to migration. “But these actions, which added to a climate of cruelty, had no effect on reducing the migratory flow,” says Solares, the Guatemalan lawyer. In fact, during the Trump presidency, records of arrests of undocumented immigrants have been reached, especially after the rumor spread in Central America that If they came to the U.S. with a child, the Border Patrol would let them pass. Between mid-2018 and 2019, thousands of parents who had traveled through Mexico with children by the hand and even carrying babies began to arrive at the southern border of the United States. Contrary to what had happened before, these migrants no longer went to remote places to go unnoticed. They would just cross over and look for Border Patrol agents to turn themselves in.

Once in the United States, the authorities processed them and released them with a summons to see a judge. But, with immigration courts saturated, that process could take months or even years, a time when migrants began to work and send money home, while children studied in American schools. That was possible, in part, thanks to two child protection laws that prevented migrant minors from being incarcerated. This trend was joined by the caravans: the groups of Central Americans who crossed Mexico together to reach the United States safer and without borrowing to pay the coyotes (human traffickers), who could charge up to $ 10,000 (about 8,500 euros) for that journey.

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