BROWNSVILLE, Texas—I’m happy to announce that here at the U.S.-Mexico border between Brownsville and Matamoros, there is neither an invasion occurring nor a surge of immigrants crossing over. And last time I checked, America has not declared Mexico to be an enemy country. So why are American troops being sent to the border?
The answer starts with President Donald Trump’s mouth.
At this point, nobody is surprised to be told that the president lies a lot. Not long ago, he claimed that a so-called caravan of Central American immigrants in Mexico was posing a threat to the United States. And it wasn’t true.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants at the border are at a 46-year low. And the number living in the United States has remained steady over the last decade, at about 11 million. Texas cities along the border like Laredo, Brownsville and El Paso are safer than some cities in the middle of the country. In short, there is no invasion.
Actually, the number of undocumented immigrants trying to enter the country is falling. Why? The Trump factor: Immigrants are afraid of him and his policies toward nonnatives.
The real border wall is Trump himself. People in Mexico and Central America are rethinking whether they should come to the United States and face the atmosphere of uncertainty and terror that they hear about from social media, news organizations and relatives.
Still, some have no choice but to leave their country. Such is the case with many of the Honduran families who were part of the “caravan” crossing Mexico. They are escaping poverty, violence and repression in a nation where the president has twisted the laws to gain his own re-election. Ask yourself this: If you were a father or mother living in Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula, and Honduran gangs wanted to recruit your son or daughter, and they had been physically threatened, what would you do? A young man interviewed recently on Univision was crystal clear: I’d rather be in a U.S. jail than in my country, he said. This is why they are willing to risk everything.
But the United States under Trump has ceased to be the country that traditionally sheltered and welcomed the world’s most persecuted or vulnerable. For more than a year, America has been a hostile and even dangerous nation for immigrants, foreigners and minorities.
Further, Trump believes that by building a border wall with Mexico and deploying thousands of troops he will prevent immigrants and drugs from passing through. But he is wrong — the border is much more porous than that. People and drugs find a way in, like a stream going around a stone. It’s been like that for centuries.
Trump says the National Guard should stay at the border until a new wall is built. But this is a complex issue. The southern border is 1,954 miles long, and about 1,200 of those miles are without fences or walls of any sort. Members of the National Guard should probably get ready to stay for many years, maybe even decades. This is a giant waste of resources on a useless strategy, all to build a wall many immigrants will hop over from above, by plane.
Immigrants will keep on coming to America, with or without papers, as long as they can find jobs and violence or poverty continues to be endemic in Latin America. Narcotics will keep crossing through via bridges and airports because more than 20 million Americans are using them. Trump will never understand that only cooperation with Latin America and a strategy that takes into account historical migratory flows will yield a positive outcome at this indomitable border, which has always refused to comply with whatever the maps say.
After reporting from both sides of the border, crossing back and forth between Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, I didn’t see any armed groups of “bad hombres” conspiring to enter the United States illegally. The only place where an invasion is happening is in Trump’s imagination.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is a news anchor on Univision.