Nevertheless, in contrast with many Mexicans and Americans who have long viewed the border as a point of connection, the beginning of their visits to friends and neighbors, a first stop on a day of shopping, leisure, or business on the other side, he sees the border as a line of division. It’s how he approached most other things as well.
In Texas, he said this is a “tender time” for our country, a “time for our nation to heal,” but Mr. Trump never was a healer of wounds. Not after the “Unite the Right” white power rally in Charlottesville, Va. Not after the murder of George Floyd. Not after mob violence at the U.S. Capitol.
Whenever he faced turmoil, he furthered division. He returned to the site of traumas he inflicted, as he did in McAllen, home to the largest U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention center, which became notorious in 2018 when national and international observers decried the cruelty of family separation.
A polarizing figure, he embodied the border itself. He was a magnet that simultaneously attracted and repelled, organizing Americans like iron filings in support or opposition: the us-versus-them, friend-versus-foe mentality that conflates perceived external and internal threats, and now targets the latter as much as the former. His supporters — “men who’d rather fight than win … like in mind and like in skin,” as the Drive-By Truckers crooned — marched on the Capitol to fight a revolution they knew they wouldn’t win. They scaled the walls outside the building to wage war against the country they claimed to love and hoped to save.
Mr. Trump wasn’t the first sower of divisions or builder of walls. That started long before Mr. Casiano was killed, with the dispossession of Mexican lands after the U.S.-Mexico War; relegating Mexican workers to the lowest-paying, most dangerous jobs; casting them as carriers of disease; and lynching them by the hundreds in the first decades of the 20th century. Over the past century, politicians have argued that immigrants steal jobs, commit crimes, bring disease, and take advantage of our safety nets.
President Biden will not close the divisions that our former president deepened, or created himself. It’ll take more than one man, and longer than four or eight years. But Mr. Biden has an opportunity to begin the work of healing. The challenges we face at the beginning of this new administration are momentous.
Mr. Biden has already begun to reverse some of the damage, offering a draft of immigration reforms and halting construction on the border wall. These efforts will help get us back to status quo. That’s not enough, but it’s an important step toward moving beyond the border thinking of Mr. Trump and his supporters.