Chile Senate Protests U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

The wall is intended to curtail illegal immigration across the border from Mexico into the United States. (Photo credit should read Luis Acosta / AFP-Getty Images)

Chile's Senate passed a resolution on last Wednesday formally protesting the United States government's construction of a wall along the United States-Mexico border.

The building of the wall was begun in 1994 as part of the Operation Guardian border control initiative. In 2007, the United States government authorized continued construction.

The protest resolution calls on Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to have Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley convey to the United States government the Senate's "energetic protest" against the decision to continue construction. Calling the wall "an insult to all Latin Americans," the resolution also requests a halt to construction and asks the Chilean government to support any complaints regarding the issue that Mexico and other Central American countries make to the United Nations.

The resolution was proposed in December by Socialist Party Senators Jaime Naranjo and Pedro Muñoz. The senators argued that the construction of the wall is a racist policy that violates numerous international human rights treaties and agreements.

The Chilean Senate's Foreign Relations Commission, which reviewed the formal protest resolution, stated that Chile would be violating a basic principal of its foreign policy by intervening in other states' internal affairs.

The Commission's declaration, however, did not stop senators from approving the agreement in a vote that was made almost completely along party lines. The agreement received nearly unanimous support from those members of the governing Concertación coalition who participated in the session. The only exception was Christian Democratic Party senator and Senate president Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, who abstained.

National Renovation Party Senator Carlos Kuschel was the only senator to vote against the agreement. Fellow members of the opposition rightist Alianza coalition abstained.

Independent Senator Fernando Flores voted in favor of the resolution.

Senator Muñoz told The Santiago Times that walls have no place in today's world, pointing to the fall of the Berlin Wall as proof. He said that the border wall represents a "flagrant violation of human rights" and that such "discriminatory" treatment of Mexican migrants could set a precedent for treatment of other migrant groups.

He added that "the United States is not following the example" of other countries with what he said were more humane immigration policies. He said that Spain, despite having measures in place to control illegal immigration, provides migrants with "much more humane and diplomatic" treatment and does not use "coercive" means to prevent entry to the country.

Socialist Party Senator Alejandro Navarro also condemned the wall, calling it "a policy based on military principles."

The second secretary of the Mexican Embassy in Chile, Carlos Jiménez, told The Santiago Times that the embassy will not comment on the Senate's protest. He did state, however, that "Mexico categorically rejects the construction of the wall on our common border." He continued that Mexico favors immigration reform instead, saying, "There are other ways to deal with this issue without the necessity of building a wall."

"Mexico and the United States have a very dynamic relationship," he said. "They have the most dynamic border in the world. They have a large, growing amount of trade. The Mexican workforce isn't a criminal workforce … In Mexico's point of view, it shouldn't be seen in a criminal way when all those people arrive not to commit crimes but to contribute with their work."

When asked to comment on the situation of migrants in Chile, Senator Muñoz said that he thinks that Chile has "acted well" when it comes to immigration. He pointed out that illegal immigrants in Chile were recently given the opportunity to legalize their status.

In October, a "migrant amnesty" measure provided illegal immigrants in Chile with the opportunity to apply for one-year visas.

From The Santiago Times.