Few countries are more linked to the US presidential campaign and the heated debate over immigration and border security than Mexico.
No surprise then that many Mexicans are closely following the US election, including people like Elsa Marsella Alfaro, 30, who attended a cross-border mass at Friendship Park. It’s a meeting place on the border where, on weekends, people from both sides of the border can walk up to the fence and talk to people on the other side, or, in this case, share communion.
Like many Mexicans, she cannot get a US visa and has not seen her family there for years.
Looking at the wall, something that Republican US presidential candidates want to fortify more, Alfaro says, “It hurts me to see the wall because that wall is keeping me away from my family. All my family from my mom’s side is over there.” She also knows families split by deportation, and how the wall symbolizes that.
“All the deportations going on before, you didn’t see moms getting deported, and now you see that more often. We’re talking about it more. People aren’t staying quiet anymore.”
Roberto Vivar, standing next to Alfaro, agrees. He lives in Tijuana and was deported from the US in 2013 because, he says, of a non-violent criminal offense. He would like to try and open his case again to try to reunite with his family, his children, in America. Of the election, he says it is “quite a concern for us because this election can shape our future.” He also says that he tells his friends and relatives stateside that Bernie Sanders is the candidate most outspoken when it comes to pro-immigrant policies.
“Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that has mentioned or shown any kind of interest for family reunification," says Vivar. "Therefore, if he’s going to support a way to get us back home, to reunite us with our family, it’s only right that we do our part to help in getting him elected.”
Vivar also said he was frustrated with the Mexican government for not speaking out more forcefully against Republican candidate and frontrunner Donald Trump, who has said that Mexico sends criminals and “rapists” to the US, that it must pay for a border wall, and advocates deporting millions of Mexicans.
“I personally think that our government should be more involved in this election, especially defending the rights of Mexicans living in the United States,” says Vivar. “Instead of that, we see absolutely no defense. We see like if our fellow countrymen are left out there to fend for themselves.”
So far, the Mexican government’s response to Trump has been quiet. But that silence might be breaking. The country’s foreign minister, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, recently called Trump’s rhetoric “racist and ignorant.” The government also plans to hold a series of meetings at Mexican consulates in the United States to highlight Mexico’s contributions to the US.
Meanwhile, former Mexican presidents have been far more forceful reacting to Trump. In an interview with Univision, Vicente Fox, Mexico’s president from 2000 to 2006, said, “I’m not going to pay for that f------ wall.”
In response, Trump tweeted that Fox “horribly used the F word when discussing the wall. He must apologize! If I did that there would be a uproar [sic]!”
It might be this type of tit-for-tat that the Mexican government wants to avoid.