Close your eyes and imagine this scene:
U.S. border patrol agents fire tear gas across the U.S.-Mexico border, upon hundreds of Central American migrants amidst what began as a peaceful march.
This scene is not a figment of your imagination, it’s a reality. A reality that was met with admiration and acceptance from the Trump administration.
While it may be thousands of miles away from Lehigh students in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border should be top of mind no matter where you live.
Lately, the U.S.-Mexico border has been portrayed as a violent and uninhabitable area. It is villainized by people, politicians and the media. All you have to do is look north to find a border at peace.
While the southern border is viewed as a militarized zone, the fact that it is an area of prosperity is often overlooked, and in turn, affected by the crisis. Shopping at outlet malls is quite popular by citizens of both countries, and since the border crossing was closed as a result of the crisis, businesses have suffered losses.
One surprising border business is the dental industry, as many Americans flock south to get their dental work done for far cheaper rates in border towns as part of “medical tourism.”
In his “Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America,” journalist Peter Schrag argues that U.S.-Mexico twin cities — sets of border towns, such as El Paso and Juarez, Calexico and Mexicala and Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, in close proximity to one another where “lives and businesses are deeply intertwined” — are significant to both nation’s economies and prove that the border fence is the only thing distinguishing them from one another.
Both Americans and Mexicans cross the border to utilize the other nation’s medical, educational, environmental and cultural resources. However, the general consensus is that Mexico does not give, it only takes.
The U.S. is fortunate to share borders with relatively good neighbors, compared to what many countries around the world have to deal with. Not only do we border just two countries, but also, we are sandwiched in between two large bodies of water. From a security standpoint, we’re doing pretty well.
So why would we need to build a wall? Why are affairs so tense at the border?
Many with anti-immigrant sentiment claim that immigrants take jobs from hard-working Americans. In reality, when immigrants do get jobs in the U.S., they “take” them from the lowest income bracket, and many of which are jobs that most Americans would not think to take, according to an article by Brookings. Hard labor, long hours and brutal working conditions are only part of the realities immigrants may face in the workforce.
Second and third-generation immigrants also tend to contribute to and boost the economy. And according to the Pew Research Center, as the number of legal immigrants in the workforce has grown since the previous decade, the number of illegal immigrants in the workforce has declined.
It is unnecessary to vilify the border and those who cross it to get into the U.S. The majority of people are simply looking for new opportunities or a fresh start to their lives, according to UNICEF. Shooting tear gas across the border and adding to an ongoing humanitarian crisis is not at all a respectable foreign policy move by the U.S. There are already enough crisis for this generation in places like Syria, Yemen and Myanmar.
All in all, the U.S. government should be more respectful and appreciative of our border with Mexico, and the people that come across it, given there are countries much less fortunate than we are, who have legitimate concerns about sharing borders.
Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Gaza/West Bank, North and South Korea are all examples of countries that have shared tense, violent and spiteful cross-border exchanges both currently and in past years.
With the continuation of harshness and brutality sent forth by the U.S. government at the Mexico border, it will only harm relations between this country and Latin America.
We have seen enough U.S. intervention gone wrong to know that our “best” intentions can lead to a hated image.
The scenes at the U.S.-Mexico border are startling. It may seem like it’s only a problem for those living there or those hoping to get across, but we are all affected by the way our own government views and treats immigrants and conceptualizes immigration policies. It is about time the government, and every American for that matter, remembers that the United States was founded as a nation of immigrants.