As a candidate, Donald Trump disparaged Mexican and Central American immigrants by saying they are bringing drugs and crime to the United States. Trump also pledged the swift removal of immigrants without documentation living in the United States and the construction of a wall along America’s southern border. During his presidency, Trump’s promises on immigration enforcement have proven to be nearly limitless.
In April of this year, the Trump administration implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy, which has purposefully separated families at the United States-Mexico border. The Trump administration is using the “America First” slogan to excuse inhumane policies regarding immigration, despite evidence showing that most of the immigrants seeking asylum are being persecuted by criminal gangs in their home countries.
Trump and his administration firmly believe that deporting as many immigrants without documentation as possible and building a wall between the United States and Mexico is the only solution to what the president perceives as an immigration problem.
Trump’s solution to immigration is simply wrong. Instead of building a wall, the Trump administration must initiate collaborative efforts with Mexico and Central America, which have already expressed interest in a bilateral relationship on immigration. Furthermore, the Trump administration needs to work with Congress to find a permanent solution for the millions of immigrants without documentation currently living in the United States.
President-elect of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly known as AMLO, recently sent Trump a letter expressing his willingness to initiate collaborative efforts with the United States on trade, immigration, development and security. In his letter, AMLO lays out his initiatives to generate jobs for Mexicans and his hopes to make migration an option and not a necessity. AMLO also recognizes that his proposal on migration requires collaboration with Central American countries, because poverty and violence leave no option for Central Americans but to migrate north.
Trump has already replied to AMLO’s letter stating that he has directed his team to “redouble” collaboration with AMLO’s incoming team. Furthermore, Trump affirms that the White House “is prepared to address the economic development and security issues that drive migration from Central America.” He does not, however, provide any details on how to address the immigration issues other than “redoubling” collaboration, nor does he offer an invitation to meet with the president-elect of Mexico.
Although Trump sounds optimistic and affirmative on a bilateral relationship with Mexico, it should be clear by now that a wall between the two nations is Trump’s only solution to immigration. The wall is not, however, mentioned in either of these letters, casting doubt on Trump’s bilateral promises.
These letters on bilateral talks between Mexico and the United States also exclude the millions of immigrants without documentation currently living in the United States, the majority of whom may be of Mexican nationality. The Obama administration acted unilaterally to aid immigrants without documentation and focused on deporting those who posed a national security threat and recent unauthorized border crossers. The Trump administration, however, has pledged to revoke any executive order on immigration implemented during the Obama administration and has ordered the immediate hiring of immigration enforcement agents. Similarly, the president has urged local and state law enforcement officers to act as de facto federal immigration officers. And on September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the phaseout of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policies must stop, and he should explore collaborative alternatives with Mexico and Central America to address the security issues that are fueling the flows of immigrants from those countries — not a wall. AMLO’s efforts to open a dialogue with Trump are the first steps to address the immigration issue, but AMLO’s team must be prepared to offer an alternative to Trump’s proclaimed border wall between the two nations. AMLO must also include the millions of Mexicans living in the United States unlawfully in any immigration deal.
As a generation of global citizens, Hoyas must protest any policy that violates human rights and urge the U.S. Congress and the president to find common ground on a permanent solution for the millions of unauthorized immigrants who are contributing to the U.S. economy through employment but deprived of their legal rights, e.g., being separated from their United States-born children or not being able to pursue their professional careers. If Congress fails to agree on a solution, the immigration debate, alluding to the wall, will once again be the pillar of the 2020 elections.
Abel Cruz Flores is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University.