Controversy Rises Again: Trump and His Wall

    A Hard-to-Fulfill Campaign Promise

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    To say that American entrepreneur, millionaire and now President of the United States number 45, Donald Trump is a controversial public figure, is indeed a cliché. His views on ethnicity, politics, and world affairs have sparked heated debates everywhere. One signature campaign promise that has seriously irked many people, especially Mexicans, has to do with Trump’s intention of building a wall along the almost 2,000-mile United States-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration. He has also vowed to enforce a “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy and to deport all illegal migrants living in the United States.

    The Issue

    – “When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best they are sending people that have lots of problems… They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They are rapists”.

    – In a disparaging remark,  attributed to Trump and later denied by his aides, he was quoted as asking: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries (El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries) come here?”, caused another international outcry.

    – On a different occasion, Trump is supposed to have said: “Why do we need more Haitians?” “Take them out”.

    – Recently Fox News, NBC, and Facebook pulled a Trump’s advert for last November midterm elections that many had been condemned as racist. Even though in January 2018, a poll indicated that 58% of American voters thought Trump’s comments were racist, the President denies having ever made any racist comments. “I am not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed”.

    The Video

    Long before he took office in January 2017, Trump has been in the eye of the media. Many TV shows like The Simpsons, The Graham Norton Show and Saturday Night Live have portrayed (and made fun of) him often. His animatronic alter ego, created for Disney’s Hall of Presidents has been widely lambasted. More recently, a blimp, shaped like a baby Donald Trump, was launched as part of a demonstration on Parliament Square in London.

    Uruguayan filmmaker Ale Damiani’s short film “M.A.M.O.N. — Latino vs. Donald Trump” uses this complex sociopolitical backdrop as the starting point of his satirical social commentary about the issue. Made in 2016, before Trump was elected, Damiani’s short first started as “a joke that got out of hand”. “It is a mirror of Trump’s manifesto”, the director has said; “we represent what he says with images out of context and black humor”.

    The film is loaded with cinematic and cultural references from the very title. While the acronym M.A.M.O.N is supposed to mean Monitor Against Mexicans Over Nationwide; “Mamón” in Mexican street parlance means sucker, insolent douchebag, and several other things, none of them nice.

    In the opening scene, Latinos from all walks of life, whether they have the fabled Green Card or not, are being thrown out of the United States like garbage. “Thanks for your collaboration and do not come back!” yells a talking invoice machine straight out of Marco Brambilla’s Demolition Man. There is a giant, Trump-controlled robot that stomps on a pleading taco vendor like a “cucaracha”, a Miss Universe (a reference to Alicia Machado, to whom Trump called Miss Piggy and Miss Maid), and the show goes on.

    A scene where a “Trumpbot” intimidates a humble Latino in a desertic area

    Thus, several beloved Mexican icons like Quetzalcoatl – one of the  main gods of Mesoamerican cultures, El Chapulín Colorado, a diplomat in an “El Santo” mask, a discombobulated “charro cantor” looking for a gun in a violin’s case (a nod to Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi”), they all fail to stop the evil Trumpbot. Only a “divine” intervention from an unexpected hero, El Ave María, saves the day. In the final sequence, a piece of hair that behaves like the alien being in John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, scurries off Trump’s dead body.

    The Wall

    Most experts say that fulfilling that campaign promise would be very expensive, at least US$ 5 billion in congressional funds. Apart from that, there are also the geographical and social challenges the Southern border poses. It is not a clean cut line. It includes arid deserts, rugged mountains, winding rivers, and cities that are split in half by the “Frontera”. All of them make building such a wall a daunting task.

    One of the phases for building the border Wall

    Curiously, Trump’s wall would not be the first man-made obstacle across the southern border. There is already the Mexico–United States barrier. This is a series of walls and fences along the border.  They attempt to curb down illegal drugs coming in from Latin America as well as illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico into the United States. The barriers are not a single contiguous structure. Instead, they are relatively short physical walls, with gaps in between. These are watched using a “virtual fence” that among, other things, includes a high-tech system of sensors and cameras, blimps as well as dogs and agents. All of them are monitored by the United States Border Patrol. The barriers were built about 25 years ago.

    On the other hand, this new wall has become the leitmotiv of Trump’s views on immigration and race issues. In a recent tweet, he wrote “…We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”. President Trump has said that he might declare a national emergency imminently to secure money for his project. This is not the only measure Trump has announced or taken in order to control immigration. He has threatened to send more than 5,000 active-duty Army troops to close the border with Mexico. This in order to stop the advance of the so-called “migrant caravan”, that he sees as an “invasion of the United States”. Trump has implied that the caravan includes criminals and/or terrorists from the Middle East. The troops might receive the authorization to use lethal force to do so.

    – In spite of requests from numerous Democrats and business leaders, Trump has also begun to put an end to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program, enacted in 2012 by then President Barack Obama, allows some 800,000 undocumented immigrants, brought to the United States as children, to get a driver’s license, request financial aid for college education, or pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher. If the program is terminated, they would be eligible for deportation.

    It still remains to be seen if the wall will be built. Former Mexican President, Vicente Fox Quesada, has tweeted: “America’s greatness is built on diversity, or have you forgotten your immigrant background, Donald?”.

    From England and China to Germany and Israel, History and Geography are full of man-made barriers and people have always found ways to go through, under, above, and around to bypass them. Thus, it can be argued that it is almost impossible to build a truly effective, impregnable wall. In the words of Lindsay Addario from the New York Times, “No wall can stop a person fleeing violence or persecution or extreme poverty — or pursuing the dream of a better life”.

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