Mexico and the USA: Allies of Convenience
Less than 50 years after the United States gained independence from England, Mexico gained independence from Spain. Similar to the United States, Mexico set up a government dissimilar to that which had ruled them, which was then replaced with a republic.
Despite the similarities between the nations, Mexico and the US fought over land for many years, including the infamous Alamo battle during the Mexican-American war. However, since these times, Mexico and the United States have been on much more amicable terms, signing trade agreements and participating in the United Nations as friendly bordering nations. However, many are quick to point to the newly elected president’s wall as a danger to this alliance.
In the late 1980s, Congress provided amnesty to an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants. Encouraged by stories of the American dream and possible new amnesty deals, illegal immigrants continued to flood into the United States, a process that angered both current American citizens and legal immigrants who felt that the illegal immigrants had it easy.
This idea was not aided by the Mexican government’s published pamphlet on how to illegally come to the United States, nor by legislative actions of the US Congress. In 1976, the United States amendment on the Immigration and Nationality Act limited the number of immigrants from any one country, thus preventing immigrants from Mexico, which had became the leading country of birth of immigrants by 1980. Action upon action by both nations added more difficulties to the already complex Mexican-American alliance, proving detrimental to the necessity of working together on the real issue, the Drug War.
The Mexican Drug War
In the late 2000s, the Mexican drug cartels started posing a real danger to both visitors and Mexican citizens. Like the gang violence in the States’ inner cities, innocent civilians were caught in turf wars, and the drugs that gave the cartels their finances were sent to America for consumption, an issue that the US still struggles with today.
The newly elected President Calderon spread his military forces across the nation, which helped start the process of arresting criminals and protecting Mexicans. Unfortunately, corruption within the government as well as difficulties enforcing the law caused the president to cast blame on the United States in an interview, further weakening Mexican-American relations. While Obama attempted to paint a pleasant friendship between the nations, the continual denial of problems took a toll on popular opinion, making Trump’s border wall plans so popular.
Prior to Obama’s transfer of power to Trump, our former president commuted or pardoned many criminals, resulting in the record for most number of commutations in a day, as well as topping the number of sentence reductions given out by the last 12 presidents combined. Four of these individuals were Mexican nationals accused of money and drug laundering, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
However, due to Obama’s involvement, these criminals will be able to return home 20 years after their capture. Although some might see this as a humanitarian move that also strengthened relations with Mexico, it only serves to further anger the citizens who supported Trump due to his campaign promises of cracking down on drugs and illegal immigration. It’s unfortunate that people feel enmity towards Mexico, but after 8 years of Obama acting like everything is completely fine between Mexico and the United States, it’s no surprise that Americans feel betrayed and underrepresented.
The emphasis on diplomacy between Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and former US president Obama only serves to make Trump’s actions to follow the law seem extreme, which could further deteriorate interactions between Mexico and the United States. However, Mexico still extradited El Chapo, the infamous Houdini drug lord, to the United States just hours before Trump was inaugurated. Officials indicated that the timing was politically motivated, and that the DOJ agreed not to pursue the death penalty as a part of the extradition deal. While the extradition may be good, we can only guess what Mexico’s motivations were for extraditing El Chapo during Obama’s term but so soon before Trump’s term.
The Wall and Immigration
Almost everyone politically inclined is familiar with Trump’s famous campaign promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, funded by Mexico. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, has indicated that Trump plans to use an import tax on items from Mexico in order to fund the wall, an action that many Americans have said will hurt Americans more than Mexicans. The issue of funding has cost Trump a visit from the Mexican president, as well as insistence that his country will not fund the wall. Hopefully, Trump will be able to find a method of renewing good relations with Mexico while not betraying his bloc of voters.
Follow this author on Twitter at @UCDavisEngineer