God created Adam and Eve, and from them descended billions upon billions of people. Equal in their humanity, due to their one origin, they came different in many other aspects: color, tongue, religion, and place of birth. Among those children, some were born in what is currently known as the USA, some others were born further north (Canada), yet some others found themselves in a place totally different from the rest of the continent, a poor country with the name of Mexico.
In our present time, Americans don’t have the smallest problem with their northern border; beyond it lays a brotherly country with a similar style of life and economic conditions. No Canadian enters the US illegally, because their birth given pieces of paper, called citizenship documents, allow them free movement. But more importantly, their conditions of life do not make them feel that fleeing their mother land is the only way out of inhuman conditions. And this is what makes the southern border a complete opposite. On the other side of this border, millions feel that they are deprived of their basic human rights and needs. Their human nature, shared with all other humans anywhere in the world, is to escape from danger, and to look for ways to survive. The closest solution to their dead-end conditions is a rich country whose media promises equal opportunity for everyone, a happy life and easy money. It is close, but not easily accessible. Millions with otherwise no hope are willing to risk all their money, and even their life, for a chance to find themselves in the northern side of the border. They are not sure what to expect once in America, all they think of at this time is to escape and to get there.
And here the problem starts and grows. Millions cross the southern border into the US. They enter and stay in the country undocumented, another word for “unknown of”. People are nowadays reduced to papers, if they are not on paper, they don’t exist. But they do exist, no matter what the papers say or don’t say. They work, rent apartments, pay bills and spend money every day. They will even have kids who will automatically be US citizens. But on paper, they remain in the shadow. Some look at this situation as a healthy and necessary one. Those poor, undocumented workers have to accept any job; they don’t have much of a choice. Businesses will prefer them because they work long hours without complaining, and they accept lower wages. They are good for the business, so they should stay and keep coming. On the other side of the debate (not the border!) stand those who see the danger of having millions living in the shadow. Their solution to the problem? Well, building a 700 mile long fence, high enough that Mexicans will not be able to climb it!
To say the least, the idea of building this fence reflects a great lack of creativity. It suggests a superficial solution to a complicated problem. Illegal immigration is not an illness, it’s a symptom of a complicated one, and we all know that treating the symptom is of no real help. Those who cross the border every year in terrible conditions risk their life, with the fence on their way, they will just figure out other ways to go for their quest of a new land. Let’s also not forget that they represent a multi-million dollar business for smugglers, and this kind of business will always find ways to keep going and making money. The fence would be a distraction as far as the real sources of the problem, which would let the problem grow bigger and bigger, until it eventually destroys the fence itself.
The kind of fence required to block the border is neither an easy nor an affordable project. All the money and efforts and time that will be spent to build it could be used for more realistic and fruitful action toward solving the problem. What if this kind of money is to be spent on US-Mexican partnership aiming to improve the conditions of life in Mexico, which would lessen the number of those willing to risk their life to escape from their country?
History teaches us lessons for our present and our future: Once upon a time, not too long ago, a big “fence” separated two countries, people on the eastern side wanted to flee to the western one, and they kept trying, until they no longer needed to, when the Wall of Berlin came down. I believe that the fence, if built, will not have a better luck.
Written in 01/2007