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Citizenship

Building a wall to discourage migrants is NOT the solution

Flickr- EdmondMeinfelder

Hungary’s government has just announced plans to build a four-meter-high fence along its 75 kilometer border with Serbia.

According to Human Rights Watch, these plans are just the latest in an ongoing campaign by the government to discourage migrants.

The government has also launched an anti-migrant billboard campaign that seems to echo subtle racist propaganda used throughout history. Because the billboards are written in Hungarian, it’s safe to assume Hungarians are the targeted audience, not migrants. They say things like “If you come to Hungary, you can’t take the jobs of Hungarians” and “If you come to Hungary you must respect our culture.” The underlying message is clear: migrants are both a menace and a threat to society.

In building a wall, Hungary is turning its backs on legitimate asylum seekers with nowhere else to turn. Pretty hypocritical, considering about 200,000 Hungarians were forced to flee to neighboring countries just half a century ago.

Unfortunately this whole “not our problem” attitude is by no means unique to Hungary. Just last week Donald Trump made news while announcing his run for the US Presidency. During his speech he vowed to build a wall along the US/Mexican border (while promising Mexico would assume the costs!) and had this to say about the United States’ southern neighbors:

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

As a descendent of Mexican immigrants, I find this kind of talk incredibly offensive, not to mention ignorant.

Reading these types of stories in the news reminds me of long road trips with my family from my childhood, when my sister and I would argue in the back over who was crossing the line in the middle seat.  Inevitably one of us would build a wall of pillows and jackets to keep the other “out”.  It’s hard to believe that adults- successful leaders, even- are resorting to this strategy, rather than addressing the root of the problem: systemic poverty and conflict.

The lines that divide the world’s nations are completely arbitrary- let’s not pretend that any of us have any more right to particular land than anyone else. While we may rely on borders to keep order, we need to remember that we’re all people at the end of the day. As global citizens, we should be opening our doors to those in need rather than closing them.

When nations like Hungary and the US try to turn their back on migrants, they’re turning their backs on people in need, and turning their backs on diversity, intelligence, human potential and the world. Those of us fortunate enough to live somewhere where there’s relative stability should never take it for granted, because there’s no certainty it will last. So ask yourself- how would you hope to be treated if you had to flee your home?