Putting his trademark campaign pledge into action, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order for the construction of a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. There were strong objections to the building of such a wall, with even Pope Francis criticizing the plan, but they unfortunately failed to change Trump's mind.
Some 11 million people are living in the U.S. illegally, which is certainly not a healthy state of affairs. However, the circumstances under which such people are in the U.S. vary widely, from those who have overstayed their visas, to those who have been smuggled across the border illegally, escaping the eyes of border authorities.
On the campaign trail, Trump stated that Mexicans were "bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists," as if Mexicans were the root of all evil. But Trump's rhetoric is extreme, and it is outrageous if he attempts to kick out all those who are staying in the U.S. illegally, despite their contributions as members of American society.
Former President George W. Bush, a Republican like Trump, signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which allowed the construction of a fence on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, although it went unfinished. Still Bush demonstrated a more generous attitude than Trump toward noncriminal immigrants. Meanwhile, the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama attempted to give provisional legal status to immigrants who were in the U.S. illegally if they met certain criteria, but the reforms failed to pan out due to push back from the Republican Party.
As a country that is largely made up of immigrants, the U.S. has long relied on the labor of those staying in the country illegally. Immigrants created the diversity the country enjoys today. Instead of building a wall, the Trump administration should partake in dialogue with Mexico. Trump's insistence that he will make Mexico pay for the wall belittles Mexico's sovereignty and, domestically speaking, is the most extreme form of populist pandering.
In 1987, the late President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in what was then West Berlin, calling for Mikhail Gorbachev, then leader of the Soviet Union, to "tear down this wall." That, just 30 years later, the U.S. president is championing the slogan "America First" is symbolic of how inward-looking the U.S. has become.
Many strongly believe that Trump took hints from the Israeli West Bank barrier for his Mexico border wall plan. But the International Court of Justice in 2004 found the Israeli wall in violation of international laws and advised Israel to take it down -- which Israel has refused to do.
Trump, who has close ties to Israel, has stated his intention to transfer the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a city under international management. He is also believed by some to be planning a restriction on entry to the U.S. of people from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa. While this may be a slightly better than an all-out ban on the entry of Muslims, as Trump promised during his presidential campaign, his exclusionism and intolerance are still on full display.
What we need to resolve the issues of terrorism and migration are not walls, but international cooperation and collaboration. Europe, too, is desperately searching for ways to deal with a massive influx of immigrants and refugees. We strongly fear that Trump's executive order for the construction of a Mexico border wall will add momentum to a reckless trend toward division and exclusion in Europe and elsewhere.