By Allan Wall, March 31, 2020
The ongoing struggle to deal with coronavirus (COVID-19) adds a new layer to the longer-lasting struggle to secure the U.S.- Mexican border.
The coronavirus is in Mexico, having arrived about a month later than it did in the United States. As of March 30th, the number of confirmed cases in Mexico (thought by some to be an undercount) surpassed 1000 (including two sitting governors) with 20 deaths.
The United States, where the virus arrived earlier, is now number one in the world in coronavirus cases, with (as of the 30th of March) over 177,000 cases and and over 3300 deaths (although a few other countries surpass the U.S. in coronavirus deaths).
Given that the United States has more coronavirus cases than, not just Mexico, but all of Latin America put together, you’d think it would be Mexico closing off its border with the United States.
But that’s not actually the case, at least at this time.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as AMLO) doesn’t want to shut down the border. In Mexico, AMLO has been accused of not taking coronavirus seriously enough, though he appears to be getting more serious.
Quarantine measures are being enacted in Mexico, including closing schools. Lockdowns are not generally as far along as in the United States, but they are heading that way, and people are being told to stay at home as much as possible.
I made a brief trip to Mexico earlier in the month, when the coronavirus count was not as high as it is now, but growing.
I went to Mexico because my mother-in-law died. (Her death was unrelated to the coronavirus). It’s a sad time for our family and a time of great adjustment. Our plan was to bring the family back from Mexico.
With all the talk about the border, I was concerned that maybe it would be closed, and we couldn’t cross into the United States. That would not have been a great injustice nor the end of the world. We have a place to stay in Mexico. But it would have been an inconvenience for us, given the things currently going on in our lives, so we preferred to get back to the United States.
As it turned out, crossing the border was no problem for us.
We were stopped at a checkpoint in Mexico, several miles before the border, where a Mexican fireman gave us a lecture about how to avoid coronavirus. I appreciate his concern. I don’t know if he gave the same talk to every car. But it was an attempt to educate the public.
When we got to the actual border, things went rather quickly as we were in the only car actually crossing at that time.
On March 21st, the border was to be, by mutual consent of the U.S. and Mexico, shut down to “nonessential travel.”
But how does one define “nonessential travel”?
It’s not a total shutdown. There are still people entering the U.S. from Mexico at border crossings, but it’s been significantly reduced.
Going the other direction is another story. It’s reportedly easier to cross from the U.S. into Mexico.
On March 25th, at the crossing between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico, a group of Mexican citizens actually shut down southbound border traffic for a few hours.
It was principally a protest against Mexican President AMLO for not doing enough to protect the border. This group wants more control and more screening for those entering Mexico from the United States.
Americans who are in favor of strong borders are often called ugly names in order to shut them up.
But it’s fair to point out that a number of grassroots Mexicans understand that a secure border can help Mexico, also. The demonstrators at Nogales certainly do.
When there’s a virus afoot, making its way all around the world, national borders can be very useful.
In the case of the U.S. and Mexico, a secure border would actually help both countries. That was true before, but maybe this coronavirus panic is helping others to see it as well.
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