The US has decided to send vaccines to Mexico. Here’s why this is an immigration issue.
Dollar Diplomacy is not a term you hear much nowadays. Originating from the Taft presidency in the early 1900s, Dollar Diplomacy was a policy where the US government would give loans to foreign (usually Hispanic) countries, and use the loans to influence the nations that accepted them. Using a nation's economic capital to influence the world at large is nothing new, of course, and is in fact still a major geopolitical strategy for many nations. In fact, not only has it continued, but it has found increased usage in international relations as of late, thanks in part to the Coronavirus.
This increasingly popular geopolitical strategy is called “Vaccine Diplomacy,” and is fairly similar to the old Dollar Diplomacy in that it uses the need for vaccines as a type of leverage to gain increased influence over other nations. This strategy has been having a renaissance lately, with nations like China and Russia having wholeheartedly jumped onto the bandwagon of Vaccine Diplomacy in order to increase their soft power. China in particular has made vaccine rollout a major part of its Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to expand Chinese power around the world. It is, therefore, not at all surprising that the US would wish to take part in this practice, and use its surplus vaccines to increase global influence. What is surprising, however, is what the Biden administration is using this strategy to pursue.
As is eloquently reported in a New York Times article on the subject, the US has recently released plans to export AstraZeneca vaccines to Canada and Mexico. In exchange, both nations are expected to send back their own vaccines to the US once they are able, which on the surface seems like a fairly normal deal. And it is fairly normal, at least for Canada. Mexico’s part of the deal, on the other hand, is an interesting subject.
We know, for instance, that while negotiations were going on over this deal, the Biden administration has also been working out a completely different deal with the Mexican government, one relating not to vaccines, but to immigration. This deal will have Mexico increase border security along its southern border with Guatemala, which would of course have the affect of inhibiting immigration from Central America.
What this deal makes very clear is that while Biden may have done away with some of Trump's controversial border laws, such as the infamous wall, he’s also no fan of open borders, and would in fact prefer if the border was a lot more restricted. Thus, the deal we see with Mexico’s border. And although the Mexican and US governments have both denied that these two deals are related, they haven't hidden the fact that the two deals were being discussed around the same time. As the NYT article reports, “At a news briefing on Thursday, Ms. Psaki said that the discussions over vaccines and border security between the United States and Mexico were ‘unrelated’ but also ‘overlapping.’”
To me, it makes complete sense that the US and Mexican governments would want to deny this, but they really aren’t fooling anyone. It is incredibly clear that the delivery of these vaccines was used as leverage for increased border security, in the same way that Dollar Diplomacy used US loans to influence nations all the way back in the early 1900s. The tactics haven't changed much, it’s just what is being used as leverage that has changed. In many ways, this deal is a bargain for the United States. Firstly, because the vaccines we’re sending aren't even approved for use in the US, so right now these vaccines are just being wasted. But secondly, and I think more importantly, because of what the deal means for US-Mexican border policy.
You see, Joe Biden has a big problem. He wants to decrease immigration to our country, but also doesn’t want to look like Donald Trump. Donald Trump was a huge supporter of strengthening the border, and so Joe Biden has to look like he’s reforming immigration if he doesn't want people to think he’s falling back on Trumpist policies. What’s a man to do? Simple, go over to Mexico, and tell them about how we have all these Vaccines we’re not using, and that we have been in talks with Canada about shipping them some. Then tell them about how we would really like it if they were to increase border security on their southern border. They’ll get the message, and you will get what you want: a stronger border without a stronger border.
Of course, I can’t prove that all that happened, but the discussions and the outcomes are true. Mexico’s Southern border will now become our southern border, and all the xenophobia will instead take place there instead of on our border. The NYT article had a fairly good quote on this deal by a man named Cris Ramon, who said that through this deal, the US gets “ to look like the good guys and the Mexicans look like the bad guys.” What other purpose could there be for this deal? It’s simply passing the blame to the next guy in line so that Biden can look like a reformer, wrapped up in a supposedly well-intentioned vaccine deal.
Looking at all this, I cannot help but think about Dollar Diplomacy some more. In a world where vaccines are as valuable as gold, it makes sense that such a deal could take place, it just boggles me that this deal is about border security of all things. Haven't we realized at this point that people aren't going to stop coming? Even under Trump, our most anti-immigration president to date, the immigrants still came, and they always will come as long as America is seen as the land of opportunity, and there are still nations where people are struggling to get by. I highly doubt Biden will be able to curtail movement to our southern border. More determined men have tried, and more determined men have failed. Still, it's interesting to see such old tactics being used in the modern-day, even if the reasons for their use are downright scummy.