Mexican President Vicente Fox spoke out on Tuesday against a fence on the US-Mexico border, and indicated that he will try to rally all of Latin America against it:
“What is not resolved by intelligent policies and by leaders is resolved by citizens. That is how the Berlin Wall fell and that is how this wall will fall,” Fox told Reuters. “I hope it isn’t even built because, if it is, it will fall….”
Fox said he was still confident the Senate would knock down the fence proposal and that a guest worker program would be agreed upon this year, but he took another swipe at the “hard liners from the other side” who want tighter border security and no immigration reform.
“It is truly shameful,” said Fox, who has made close ties with Washington and the search for an immigration deal the centrepiece of his foreign policy.
I wrote at the beginning of the month in this post about my mixed feelings on the border fence idea, stating that while I viscerally disliked the idea, I recognized the real benefits of it from a security perspective. I came to the conclusion that I was willing to support a border fence with two conditions: (a) if it was packaged together with a guest worker program and (b) fiscal discipline could be ensured for its construction.
Statements like this one today by Fox (and the quotes in this article) tip me even further into the “build a fence” camp. I feel that way for two key reasons:
First, Fox’s statement reveals the extent to which he doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the difference between legal and illegal immigration. If the United States puts a fence on the US-Mexican border, it will have no impact on legal immigration. It will only affect illegal immigration, which is the sovereign right of the United States to try to prevent.
Second, comparing a putative US-Mexico wall to the Berlin Wall is an insulting historical analogy to Americans, given the starkly repressive history of the latter wall. If a wall was built on the US-Mexico border, there would still be hundreds of thousands of Mexicans legally crossing into the United States every day. Did hundreds of thousands of East Germans take daytrips into West Berlin and Hanover every day? I didn’t think so.
If Fox really doesn’t want to see a fence built, he should stop blaming the United States. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if his statements in this story really hurt his cause, and get a strong negative reaction in the US media in the next few days. Instead, Fox should focus on getting his own house in order, cracking down on the endemic corruption in parts of the Mexican government and making it easier for honest, hard-working Mexicans to earn a decent living in their own country.