State borderlands have always been a sensitive issue for the preservation of national security and cultural freedom. These demarcations are symbolic of the sovereignty of states and hence, a matter of patriotic concern whereby history is replete with incidents of incursions, break out of conflicts, hostilities, and cold wars. The US-Mexico border traces a history of immense political upheavals to date to map out the current frontier of both states as we know them today.
As per the current geographical specifications, the US-Mexico border separates both nations extending from the west of the Pacific Ocean towards the Gulf of Mexico in the east. It runs to a length of 3,145 kilometers and is ranked as the 10th longest international boundary in world ratings and is regrettably one of the most violated and most frequently crossed national borders. The massive influx is inclusive of documented and legitimate cases (estimated to be around three hundred and fifty million annually) along with innumerable illegitimate migrations incessantly on the rise. This reason accounts for why the US-Mexico border is still a heated debate especially when it comes to the contemporary US immigration policy.
Early US and Mexican History
Mexico celebrated its independence from Spain in 1821 and for the first time ever shared its border with the United States. However, a clear demarcation was non-existent. This lack proved to be a lapse for the political standing of the two nations with both ponderings over the legality of their authorities over the vast lands of areas that were up for grabs.
As a proactive approach to safeguard its national interest, Mexico in the wake of looming threats from the Apache raiders, local rebellion, and warlords moved north. However, it did not enjoy the full support of its people and many stayed behind on grounds of patriotic associations. With the passage of time, the issue of the American immigrant influx into Mexico became a transcending concern for the Mexican authorities who were already experiencing instability.
Mexico though perturbed over the illegal inflow of Americans, optimistically anticipated that these new settlers would help bring about order to its northern region. However, the hope was in vain with the soaring immigration turning into a nightmare.
The Americans on the other hand trace a history of having struggled with its border dilemma dating back to earlier centuries whereby France, Spain, and England claimed authority of diverse regions of North America under the camouflage of established trade and commerce activities. Despite their concerted efforts to sketch up maps and sign pacts, they could not entirely exercise strong control. The Native Americans were pushed up to the Appalachian Mountains and sought stability in the Ohio valley amidst prevailing uncertainty. America remained to be unsettled on account of their motherland under the control of western tribes with every 1 out of 5 Americans a slave.
US President James K. Polk in 1844 envisioned extending the American frontier from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Relations with Mexico deteriorated in 1845 in the wake of the Texas annexation after which America’s offer for the purchase of California and New Mexico (shared territories) for a sum of $ 30 million was turned down by the Mexican authorities. As an impulsive endeavor, the US president resorted to the use of force and deployed 4,000 troops into the region of Rio Grande and the southern limits of the Nueces River.
A similar though minor offense was carried out by the Mexican cavalry attack in April 1846 in the disputed region that led to discernible American casualties after which the US waged war against Mexico. History has on record several series of sieges and bloody outbreaks that followed consequently. The flared war came to an end in February 1848 which gave a vague shape to the US-Mexico border we acknowledge today. Nevertheless, the clash of the two nations led to US victory in claiming siege over the Mexican capital in September 1847.
With the precarious situation at hand and a slightly lighter weightage in the battle in terms of technology and resources, America managed to overwhelm Mexico. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico acceded to the recognition of the Texas annexation and also consented to sell off one-third of its terrain for $15 billion inclusive of the charges for the damages incurred by the US. Consequently, 0.5 million sq miles of Mexican land that encompassed the area of current states such as Kansas, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and Oklahoma was sold to the United States of America.
1849 saw the first initiative to demarcate a boundary line of the US-Mexico border carried out by Commissioner John B. Weller and Surveyor Andrew Gray. Unfortunately, on account of unfavorable circumstances between the two, the endeavor proved to be just another unsuccessful attempt on behalf of the US to secure its southern borders.
US Immigration Policy Development | US-Mexico border
The US immigration policy towards Mexico has seen a glaring transition from a non-restricted approach to a now stringent policy in the wake of many developments.
An insight into the evolutionary development of political relations between Mexico and the US and the resulting US immigration policy depicts an unlimited relocation across the current borderlines. Though the first real-time fencing of the US-Mexico border took place in 1909 in an attempt to stop the trans-border movement of cattle by the US Bureau of Animal Industry, that came without any potential restriction of human movement. Deliberate measures taken for controlling free movement of the masses across the borders came in the wake of the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 19882 to curb the influx of illegal Chinese immigrants from the Mexican domain into America and not particularly directed to limit Mexicans.
These restrictions with the passage of time took a more serious turn for Mexicans too with the 1910s Mexican Revolution which led to a substantial inflow of refugees into the US. The US immigration assumed further rigidity followed by the advents of Pancho Villa’s fatal raid on New Mexico (a part of Mexico which yielded to the United States in 1948 via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo) and the publication of the Zimmerman Telegram which recommended a military alliance between Mexico and Germany. This raised US apprehensions of the frontier breach and led to further tightening of the US-Mexico border with heavy deployment of Texas Rangers and home guards.
Furthermore, in 1993 President Clinton in a bid to address the rampant menace of drug smuggling from Mexico across the border into America sanctioned the fourteen-mile border between Tijuana and San Diego. Sequentially, in the wake of political development, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 approved a further construction of a 700 miles secured border inclusive of post-and-rail, mesh fencing, barbed wiring, vehicle barriers, and thousands of cameras and underground sensors. The use of drones and aircraft (for aerial surveillance) and boats (for naval security) are also the trending schemes for patrolling the US-Mexico border. The project successfully came to an end in 2011.
With US-Mexican history all a narration of incessant confrontations on one pretext or the other, we now find a more concrete existence of a physical and secured settlement politically acknowledged in the wake of developing US immigration strategies after gaining control over its unsettled history.
Contemporary US Policy for US-Mexico Border
As per the statistics and reports of Pew Research Center, an estimated total of 11.6 billion Mexican immigrants resided in America by 2016 with half existing illegally.
The escalating influx was one of the transcending political agendas of the Trump era which made dire efforts to establish a stringent and impenetrable physical boundary to cut off the menace of illegal inflow along the southern US-Mexico border. However, financial implications, environmental obstacles, and lack of full national support accounted for the delay to give a shape of reality to the envisioned project. The estimated costs of the construction of a new thousand miles long wall ( 55 feet in height) tolled to a hefty $ 40 billion expenditure as determined by the MIT Technology Review, though president Trump on every front asserted the total to an $18 billion expense margin. In 2018, the US Congress regardless of the claims of expenditure, sanctioned only a total of $ 16 billion as a contribution to the US-Mexico border build-up.
In April 2018 (as per the precedent set by the Obama and George W.Bush administrations) the Trump administration deployed National Guard Troops for severe monitoring and border security until the project saw its full completion.
Latest US-Mexico Border Development
In the post-Trump scenario after the American Presidential elections of 2020, one of the top political focuses of President Biden is the restructuring of the controversial immigration policies of Trump. As per media reports and claims of the Republicans, Biden’s stance is indicative of a positive change that aims to mitigate the incurred loss. Movement across the borders is being discouraged at large.
In an interview given to ABC News, Biden claimed having inherited a mess from his predecessor Donald Trump. Nevertheless, he stays determined to overturn the many wrongs exercised by the out-going administration by intending to offer relaxation in the major hardline possible keeping the vested interest of the nation on top priority.
As per the statistics report of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shared in February 2021, more than 100,000 attempts of migration were recorded which on a comparative note is the highest since 2019. This indeed is an undesirable rate of illegal immigrants objectionable for any state in the world.
The rate of child immigrants crossing the US-Mexican border was recorded to be above 9,000. The shortage of accommodation for such children is also a concern. In response to the same, US President Joe Biden has expressed hope to have enough facilities within the coming months to cater to the need of all those children/ people who have nowhere to go.
DHS Secretary declared and assured the safety of the US-Mexican border and dismissed any surfacing media claims of crisis at the border. Another made statement was pertaining to the consideration of not deporting immigrant children living in the US without parents. Spilling further details he stated that the children can claim immigration relief on humanitarian grounds as per what the law provides. In view of the legitimacy of the case, any child failing to meet essential requisites would be returned to Mexico in a safe manner.
Biden on his first day to the presidential office reverted Trump’s signature project as a measure to address the hardline Trump immigration policies; especially towards the US-Mexico border. Biden has put to halt the construction of the border wall along its southern side with the country and also reversed the forced policy to send asylum seekers back to Mexico while they are in queue for their court dates. These measures indicate providing a fair chance as per internal norms. Criticism from the Republicans is being voiced sternly raising concerns that the US immigration policy towards Mexican immigrants has led to over a 7% rise in the trend since the inception of the new government.
According to reports from Reuters, Mexico in anticipation of the influx of illegal immigrants back from America has stepped up its border security with the deployment of National Guard Troops stationed at the Guatemala border.
The Republicans claim that national security transcends all administrative concerns and the culminating strength of 3,600 children at the borderline is indeed worrisome and directs the responsibility of the rise to the new Biden administration.