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Steven R. Howell: Will Mexico actually pay for the wall? |
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Steven R. Howell: Will Mexico actually pay for the wall?

Steven R. Howell
| Saturday, January 5, 2019 7:00 p.m
In this Jan. 2, 2019, photo, a border patrol office inside his vehicle guards the border fence at the U.S. side of San Diego, Calif., as seen from Tijuana, Mexico. As the U.S. government remains shut down over President Donald Trump’s insistence on funding for his border wall, nearly half of Americans identify immigration as a top issue for the government to work on this year. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

How will President Trump get Mexico to pay for the wall?

Hammering on the “caravan” of migrants headed from Central America to the United States via Mexico was a central theme for Trump prior to the midterm election. However, maybe it wasn’t just a fear-mongering political ploy to boost turnout among Republicans worried about illegal immigrants taking their jobs. Perhaps Trump had a more manipulative trick up his sleeve.

Thanks to that caravan actually arriving at the U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 25, and the need for crowd-control actions against migrants rushing the border crossings, portions of the U.S. border with Mexico have been closed, particularly at the San Ysidro port of entry, although Trump has reportedly threatened more possible closures. A temporary and sensible crowd-control action, or an art-of-the-deal bit of brinksmanship by the Trump administration to boost support for the idea of closing the entire border with Mexico?

Certainly, if Trump had just suggested that theUnited States close the entire border with Mexico for no reason, people would think he was crazy. So much trade passes both ways — more than a billion dollars a day by some estimates — that it would hurt the U.S. economy too badly, to say nothing of the Mexican economy, which is arguably more dependent on trade with the United States

However, now that Trump has manipulated the media to talk non-stop about the invasion of asylum-seekers rushing our border, closing it for a while doesn’t seem so outlandish. After all, Mexico has already agreed to housing asylum-seekers on the Mexico side of the border while their claims are processed by U.S. courts. Mexico is also deporting some of those arrested for trying to rush the border with theUnited States

Then, what if as a condition of reopening the border, Trump demands that Mexico control the number of immigrants or refugees thronging the U.S. border? Seems sensible, right? Perhaps one way for Mexico to do that would be to … “build the wall.” Or at least pay for part of it in concert with the United States

Slowly, step by step, has Trump manipulated the media into provoking enough fear that he can be justified in closing the border temporarily, which will spook Mexico into doing whatever it takes to avoid losing all that U.S. trade, not to mention the remittances from Mexicans working legally or illegally in the United States?

Trump has a long history of trying to manipulate the media into reporting what he wants them to, dating back to his days as a real estate developer and the alleged use of alter egos talking to reporters. He gets criticized for a lot, but one thing he is consistently good at is controlling the news cycle and using the media.

While some have suggested that Democrats have promoted and even funded migrants to come to the United States to provoke this crisis, what about the Trump administration and the Republicans? Trump wouldn’t be the first would-be authoritarian to pay for fake agitators to protest against the state, to provoke fear in the public and justify some kind of state crackdown. Closing the U.S.-Mexico border would be quite a crackdown, and would be in line with his other protectionist and trade-war practices.

Will Trump actually get Mexico to pay for the wall?

Steven R. Howell, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology
at Keystone College in La Plume, Pa.

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