Tens of thousands of citizens in Mexico marched on Sunday to protest against US President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and his executive order to construct a wall along the US-Mexican border. Waving Mexican flags and anti-Trump signs, infuriated Mexicans displayed remarkable national unity in order to accuse Trump of racism and unfairly targeting Mexico.
Since his election campaign, Trump has promised to build an “impassable physical barrier” to end the “unprecedented surge” of illegal migrants from Central America. Trump’s vilification of Mexican immigrants by calling them “criminals” and “rapists,” as well as his insistence that Mexico will reimburse the US for the cost of the wall has angered Mexico and its people. To show his objection to Trump’s building of a wall, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a trip to Washington on January 31, saying, “Mexico does not believe in walls.”
Mexican protesters at the rallies on Sunday echoed this sentiment.
“Mexicans demand respect, we want bridges, not walls,” was written on one banner, while “Trump you diminish America,” was written on another.
Maria Paro Cassar, an organizer of protests in Mexico added that Trump’s policies are “a global threat that go[es] against pluralism and diversity and they represent a particular threat to Mexico.” As well, “It should not be forgotten that American society was made by migrants and continues to be made by migrants.”
Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the US-Mexican border is expected to stem the flow of refugees to the US. However, according to the Pew Research Center, there is, in fact, a net loss of Mexican immigrants from the US. From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans left the US for Mexico, while only 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico for the US. In addition to this, the research centre states that the unauthorized immigrant population in the US is currently estimated to be around 11 million, however, this population has been experiencing a gradual decline over recent years and has fallen from 12 million in 2008. Despite the seemingly large number of unauthorized immigrants in the US, around half of these people are those who overstay their visas, and not those who have entered the country through illegal border crossings.
This suggests that the building of a wall to reduce the flow of illegal immigration is too simple a solution that does not address the complexities of the problem of unauthorized immigration. President Trump’s own party member, Texas Republican Rep. William Hurd has criticized the building of a wall by saying in a statement that “Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.”
Apart from immigration, Trump’s new policies are likely to have damaging implications for Mexico’s increasingly open economy. In 2015, the US received 80% of Mexico’s exports, which is equivalent to approximately $300 billion. Mexico’s prospects of building close economic ties with the US have been upturned by Trump’s promises to implement huge tariffs on Mexican-made goods, his attacks on US companies that manufacture their products in Mexico, and his renegotiation and potential withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement. With Mexico’s economy so dependent on the US, Trump’s new policies could send the Mexican economy into an economic crisis.
According to a poll conducted by the Mexican newspaper, El Universal, last month, nearly 80% of Mexicans believe that relations between the US and Mexico will be worse during the Trump Presidency than it was during the Obama administration.
The angry anti-Trump protests on the weekend mark a new low of the relations between the US and Mexico, as well as the growing international unease regarding Trump’s new immigration policies.