US presidential election: how Donald Trump militarized the border with Mexico
If his plan for a wall is compromised, the American president has tried to put in place a deterrent migration policy and has strengthened the powers of the border police. In El Paso, where part of the wall was built by private funds, tensions with the population are permanent.
This Thursday morning, the “wall” is wide open. On the other side, Mexico and Casa de Adobe, a tiny museum that celebrates this mud house’s role in the Mexican Revolution. On the American side, the border patrol agent is having fun. “I don’t even have the key. I have to wait until someone gives it to me to close. “ This large open border, it does not seem to worry too much. ” The wall ? It probably helps , says the agent without really believing it. But our work was already quieter before. It’s not like ten years ago, there is less and less traffic. “
From 1.6 million arrests at the border in 2000, we have now risen to nearly 400,000. And Mexicans, who accounted for almost all of the figures twenty years ago, are in the minority today. Result: the number of illegal immigrants in the United States is decreasing. According to the Pew Research Center, it has grown from 12.2 million in 2007 to just over 10 million today.
On this private property in Sunland Park (New Mexico), near El Paso (Texas), an association supported by Steve Bannon, Build the Wall, built this portion of the wall. The owner of the premises, who owns a construction company, American Eagle Brick Company, gave his blessing for the erection of part of the wall last year. In a few weeks, 800 meters of tightened steel poles, 5.50 meters high, appeared. An army of volunteers got their hands dirty, mostly from militias that hunted migrants along the border. “We are here to help the border patrol, because they do not have enough resources”,then said the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots. It does not matter if, since, the leaders of Build the Wall have been arrested on suspicion of having embezzled part of the money raised on the Internet that was to be used for the construction of the wall.
A wall in the mind
The links between these organizations and the Trump administration are tenuous. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, came to support Build the Wall last year, and some suspect an even closer relationship. “This portion of the wall is exactly the same as the one built by the State, a few hundred meters further ,” Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR), an association which defends the rights of migrants, is surprised. . How did they get hold of the plans? “
For the association, the wall is a symbol: the one that the Trump administration is building in people’s minds is much more dangerous. “If the wall was really for something, no one would get through. However, the border police continue to harass the population who live near the border, in search of migrants who are hiding, ”emphasizes Fernando Garcia.
Locals confirm. “Right now, a helicopter flies over the neighborhood every night. Impossible to sleep ! » Complains Dolores Rodriguez. The sexagenarian has recovered: a few weeks ago, the Border Patrol entered her home, ransacked her beds of plants, looking under her terrace for possible illegals. “Of course there was no one there. I plugged the underside of my patio, but they will probably come back . His grandson still remembers that afternoon when he played in the street with his friends. “They were running, like children can. The Border Patrol must have found it suspicious, they intervened and tackled all the children to the ground, until their parents came to pick them up ”, says Dolores. Every day, the motorcycles and cars of the border police crisscross the streets of the neighborhood, defying the inhabitants.
There would be worse. BNHR recently denounced rapes and forced sterilizations, which are said to take place in detention centers at the border. “We hadn’t heard of this for forty years. Women, expelled to Mexico immediately after, begin to speak , says Fernando Garcia. No one can see what is going on within the walls of these centers. And as the victims are immediately sent back to Mexico or Central America, the cases are forgotten . “
Two years ago, part of America was moved by the separation of families at the border. Some children of migrants were separated from their parents and placed in reception centers, sometimes across the country. Officially, the practice has disappeared. But, for Fernando Garcia, nothing has changed. The BNHR also recently organized a demonstration in front of a brand new center, not far from El Paso airport, which would welcome ten children.
These practices would have one goal: to send a message of firmness to candidates for illegal immigration. The policy of deterrence would work in part because in recent months the profile of migrants has changed. In May and June, 89% of the 90,000 people arrested by the Border Patrol were single adults. Last year, over the same period, they were only 30%, the rest of the 300,000 people arrested were families.
“Part of the wall was built under Obama. On immigration, the Democrats’ policy is not so far removed from that of the Republicans , argues Fernando Garcia. But what has changed with the Trump administration is that the border police feel untouchable today. No one is there to control them. The region also remains traumatized by the massacre of summer 2019 . A young nationalist had traveled from Allen to El Paso (more than 1,000 kilometers) to kill 23 people, mostly Latinos, in a Walmart supermarket, after posting a manifesto on the Internet in which he referred to the theory of the great replacement.
on the rise again, with the economy of the neighbor to the south being particularly hit by the economic crisis. For the first time in many years, Mexicans could be in the majority among immigrants who crossed illegally into the United States in 2020. Certain countries in Central America had also, it is true, closed their borders. And legal crossings from one side of the border to the other have been limited. The Covid also allowed the US administration to send certain files. For health reasons, illegal immigrants are returned without delay, without trial and without ever having seen a lawyer.
About a third of the American-Mexican border is now protected by a wall, which takes various forms: barriers intended to stop vehicles, wide posts that are difficult to cross by man, concrete wall (very few… On the rest From the border, the natural elements act as a foil: the desert mountains or the Rio Grande, but the entire border is scrupulously monitored by the Border Patrol, which in a few years has become the most powerful federal agency, better financed than the FBI. In the region of El Paso alone, it has 1,400 employees, not to mention the sensors, lighting, surveillance cameras, and soldiers called in as reinforcements … ” Many private companies lived off wars led by the United States. However, today, we are withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan. We had to continue to keep them alive: we are therefore militarizing the border, with state-of-the-art equipment , ”denounces Fernando Garcia.
A future in suspense
“This barrier is fundamental for the security of the border , solemnly announced Donald Trump, at the beginning of 2019, when requesting funds from Congress. This is also what the professionals at the border are demanding. It’s just common sense. And the wall will quickly pay for itself. The cost of drug trafficking exceeds $ 500 billion a year, far more than the $ 5.7 billion we have asked for. And it will also be paid, indirectly, by the great commercial treaty that we have concluded with Mexico. “
While several parts are still under construction, Donald Trump will not keep his promise to complete more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) of wall before the start of the year 2021. And, if he had assured that Mexico would pay the cost of construction, it is the United States which fully supported the weight of the work. In total, only 110 miles (177 kilometers) have been built or completely renovated. However, Donald Trump assured again on Saturday, during his first public appearance since leaving the hospital: “The wall is now 380 miles long, it will soon be finished.” “
This wall is an endless soap opera that will have lasted throughout Trump’s presidency. A rallying point for all its fans, who continue to shout “Build the wall” during its meetings. If, for two years, the Republicans had all the power, controlling the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the White House was never really able to do what it wanted on this file. The credits were never fully released. And for good reason: a report from the Department of National Security estimated that the projects of the White House would cost more than 21 billion dollars. Not to mention the maintenance costs. Far from the forecasts of the presidency, which counted on 12 billion. Donald Trump therefore had to settle for crumbs ($ 5.1 billion),recovered from some unused funds , which enabled it to renovate parts of a wall started under previous administrations.
And yet, great uncertainties remain about the future of these projects. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that the Trump administration could not use funds from military programs to finance work on the wall. The White House’s argument was based on the fact that, according to it, a situation of “national emergency” existed at the border, which allowed it to involve the Army. For the Court of Appeal, this does not mean that the executive can redirect funds from programs approved by Congress. This “fundamentally alters the separation of powers ”, according to the court.
The administration had realized, even before this decision, that this type of project could not be carried out in a few months. Most of the land is privately owned, especially in Texas , so you have to buy it out first or come to an agreement with the owners. Many disputes are still pending before local courts. Whoever the next president of the United States is, the wall has not finished talking about him.