In a historic speech in front of the Berlin Wall in 1987 Republican President Ronald Reagan made History when he challenged the Soviet Union to “knock down this wall”. In a stunning paradox Republican President Donald Trump yesterday signed an executive order to build a wall to stop immigration from Mexico.

Moments of History

Walls are barriers of division and oppression and Donald Trump’s executive orders yesterday go against long term American policies and the traditional philosophy of the Republican Party. This situation will certainly make some politicians of the Republican Party very uncomfortable, particularly those like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz who have direct experiences of the migration experience.

Just as the Berlin speech was a defining moment of the Cold War and American history, this new direction for American immigration policy will become the moment that will define #Donald Trump for future generations.

Stop them or not?

Yet, for all the rhetoric about walls, no wall has even been successful in stopping migration, or invasion. The Great Wall did not stop the Mongol invasion of China, as the Maginot line did not stop the German invasion of France in 1940. The Berlin Wall itself never stopped desperate people from trying to flee East Germany and one of the iconic photos of that period was that of the East German border guard who himself jumped the wall.

The border wall with Mexico will not only stop the illegal immigration which provides a cheap work force for many American companies, but it will also make it harder for refugees fleeing Latin American dictatorships from reaching a country that had always prided itself as a shelter for the weak and the oppressed.

In this way the new wall will become a powerful new symbol for the country and not only in the eyes of Trump’s supporters, but also in those of the rest of the world.

It is still too early to make a definitive judgment on a decision only made yesterday and the executive orders will surely be challenged legally. All we can say at the present time is that the legislators, beginning with the Republicans, and the judges that will now have to decide and act on the orders must be aware of not only their legal and constitutional consequences, but also on their effect on the image of the United States. The final cost of the wall will not only be in terms of dollars, but also in international prestige.