It was in 1987 that United States President Ronald Reagan visited the divided city of Berlin, Germany, at the height of the Cold War and viewed the wall that Communist East Germany had built to keep its people from fleeing to freedom in the West. Speaking at the Brandenburg Gate, Reagan delivered what became his famous call to Soviet Russia’s Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. “Mr. Gorbachev,” he said. “Tear down this wall!”
The Berlin Wall did finally come down two years later, in 1989. The Iron Curtain followed with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War.
Another US president is in the news today in connection with a wall. This time, the president, Donald Trump, wants to build one. This would be a wall along the entire length of the US-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and other impoverished Central American countries, hoping to escape conflict and crime in their own lands and find a new life in the United States.
It is now 12 days since the US Congress failed to reach agreement on $5 billion sought by Trump for his wall along with funds for the running of the federal government. Thus, at midnight that Friday, nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State, and Justice had to close down. Some 380,000 federal employees had to stay home without pay, while 420,000 who were deemed essential will now work unpaid but were assured of backpay.
Congress and the White House could not agree on $5 billion which President Trump was demanding for his wall, one of his campaign promises in the 2016 presidential election. Congress thinks a physical wall is impractical and the idea is just being used as a political tool by Trump.
That same Friday that most of the federal government had to shut down, the Trump administration suffered a setback in the Supreme Court on the same issue of migrants. The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, dealt a setback to the administration’s hardline policy on migration. The court upheld a California federal judge’s order rejecting the administration’s policy declaring anyone crossing the border outside the official port of entry ineligible for asylum.
The shutdown in government offices added to the turmoil in Washington, DC, already torn by the resignation of one of Trump’s key cabinet men – Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. The secretary quit the cabinet over the president’s decision to pull out US troops from the Syrian War, thus turning their back on their long-time allies, Syrian rebel forces and their Kurdish and other allies.
The whole world now watches as the US government struggles through very trying times, with so many government employees without work and without income during the Christmas holidays. Tomorrow, January 3, 2019, the new House of Representatives will convene, now with a Democratic majority after the recent midterm election. Any agreement on Trump’s call for $5 billion for his wall may thus be even more remote.
The world continues to watch events unfolding in the US and we join in hoping the uncertainty will soon end for any serious disruption in US affairs is bound to affect today’s international relations.