59°F
weather icon Clear

El Paso irritated with Trump’s claim that wall made city safe

Updated February 10, 2019 - 7:13 pm

EL PASO, Texas — People walking over the Paso del Norte Bridge linking this West Texas border city to Mexico can watch President Donald Trump’s border wall getting bigger in real time.

Workers in fluorescent smocks can be seen digging trenches, pouring concrete and erecting rust-colored slabs of 18-foot-high metal to replace layers of barbed wire-topped fencing along the mud-colored Rio Grande, which is usually little more than a trickle.

Most of the more than 70,000 people who legally cross four city bridges daily — to shop, go to school and work — pay the construction in the heart of downtown no mind. But on a recent weekday, one man stopped and pointed, saying simply “Trump.”

In his State of the Union address, the president said a “powerful barrier” had cut crime rates and turned El Paso from one of the nation’s most dangerous cities to one of its safest. He’s holding a rally here Monday to show why he’s demanding more than 100 miles of new walls, costing $5.7 billion, along the 1,900-mile border, despite opposition from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress.

But many in this city of dusty desert winds and blistering salsa, bristle at the prospect of their home becoming a border wall poster child.

It’s had border barriers for decades, but that isn’t why it’s a safe place, they say. El Paso, population around 800,000, already had one of the lowest violent crime rates in the U.S. That’s despite being just across the border from drug violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

They argue that El Paso embodies a cross-border spirit that transcends walls rather than proving more are needed.

“The richest of the rich, the poorest of the poor, we all have different reasons for wanting to cross, and people cross every day,” said El Paso City Council member Peter Svarzbein.

El Paso lays bare the mixed feelings the border inspires. Even native Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic congressman now mulling a presidential run, says barriers are inevitable but that Trump’s calls for an expanded wall are the “cynical rhetoric of war, of invasions, of fear.”

O’Rourke will help lead a Monday evening march opposing the wall with dozens of local civic, human rights and Hispanic groups at the same time Trump is holding his rally. Organizers expect thousands to turn out.

“While some try to stoke fear and paranoia, to spread lies and a false narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border and to demand a 2,000-mile wall along it at a time of record safety and security, El Paso will come together for a march and celebration that highlights the truth,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

For centuries, virtually nothing but an often easily wadable Rio Grande stood between the city and Juarez. But worsening economic problems in Mexico increased the flow of immigrants into the United States in the 1970s, prompting Congress to approved chain-link fencing here and in San Diego dubbed the “Tortilla Curtain.” More barriers were added in the 1990s and 2006.

Public reaction to the security measures initially was positive in some quarters because it helped reduce vagrancy and petty crime. But many residents now complain that Trump’s demands have gone too far, making their home sound like a war zone and offending both them and people from Mexico.

“The border is fluid culturally, economically,” said Cesar Blanco, a Democratic lawmaker who lives a stone’s throw from the wall. “We are a binational community.”

Those who live near the wall say they see few people climbing the barriers now. In fiscal year 2017, about 25,000 people were apprehended in Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, down from 122,000-plus in fiscal year 2006.

Instead, those crossing illegally now tend to do so outside the city in desolate deserts where deaths from exposure have risen. Democrats argue that electronic sensors and patrols are a more effective answer for additional border security.

The demand for more and bigger walls has become “the supreme symbol of racism,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso. “Obviously he’ll have some people attend his rally,” he said of Trump, but “he cannot lie about what we’re about.’”

Many Republicans, though, insist the low crime rate here is not a coincidence.

“There are regular shoot-outs near the border, dangerous narcotics trafficked,” said recently elected Republican Congressman Chip Roy, who represents a district between Austin and San Antonio. “The good news is that we can stop this,” Roy said in a post-State of the Union fundraising email championing a Trump-backed wall.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows that El Paso’s annual number of reported violent crimes dropped from nearly 5,000 in 1995 to around 2,700 in 2016. But that corresponded to similar declines in violent crime nationwide and included times when the city’s crime rates actually increased year-over-year, despite new fencing and walls.

The towering barriers don’t stop Juarez from almost seeming like another neighborhood in El Paso. From many places, you can see white city buses rumbling on the other side of the border and read green street signs marking that city’s major thoroughfares in Spanish. Buildings more than a few stories tall in El Paso have sweeping views of downtown Juarez.

Mickie Subia’s single-story home in the historic, downtown Chihuahuita neighborhood is steps from the barrier, providing glimpses of Mexico through fencing and metal slats. She said the wall doesn’t make her feel safer.

“We don’t have a problem with Border Patrol,” Subia said. “We don’t have a problem with anyone coming from over there, either.”

Dee Margo, El Paso’s mayor and a former Republican state lawmaker, tweeted after the State of the Union that his city was “NEVER one of the MOST dangerous cities in the U.S.,” adding that border walls are only partly the reason.

“I’m really glad President Trump is coming here,” he said in a subsequent interview. “I just hope we get chance to show him what it’s really like on the border.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke addresses attendees during a campaign stop at Arandas Taqueria in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O'Rourke House Party in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.” (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks at Atomic Liquors
Democrat presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks to her supporters at Atomic Liquors.
Presidential candidate Gillibrand meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys at her first stop in Nevada as a candidate Thursday, March 21, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto promotes the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., co-sponsor of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, speaks at Hoggard Elementary School in Las Vegas to promote the bill that would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Scholar Max Eden on how restorative justice decreases student achievement - VIDEO
Across the country, restorative justice is lowering test scores and increasing the number of students who feel unsafe at schools. That’s according to Max Eden, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, who recently released a study discipline reform.
NV Dems Want To Gut Read By Three - Video
Nevada’s students have a major problem. They aren’t very good at reading. In 2017, just 31 percent of fourth graders were proficient at reading according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. The number proficient falls to 28 percent in eighth grade. Read by Three could change that. If a student can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade, he repeats the grade.
Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard stumps in Las Vegas
Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a meet and greet at the Asian Culture Center in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 18, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nye County pushes back against state gun bill
Gun store owner Robby Brentlinger and John Koenig, Chairman of the Nye County Board of Commissioners, discuss their thoughts on gun rights and Nevada Senate Bill 143. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Atkinson pleads guilty
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge Monday.
Atkinson pleads guilty to wire fraud charges
U.S. Attorney’s Office announces plea deal for charges against former Nevada Senate majority leader Kelvin Atkinson during a press conference on Monday, March 11, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleads guilty
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge Monday, less than a week after resigning from his post. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Melania Trump Speaks Out About Opioid Epidemic - VIDEO
Melania Trump speaks at the Westgate hotel about the Opioid epidemic in the United State and how this generation can be the group that ends it.
Nevada Legislative Session Preview: Education, Yucca Mountain and Microchips
The Nevada Legislature will be meeting to look at new bills that involve education and marriage age restrictions. Governor Sisolak has also requested to meet with the White House about the plutonium shipments sent to Nevada.
Cortez Masto, Rosen For Infanticide - VIDEO
If an abortionist — armed with scissors, clamps and a vacuum cleaner — can’t kill a baby while she’s still in the womb, he shouldn’t get another chance after she’s born. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen disagree.
Abortion Bill Would Decriminalize Causing A Pregnant Woman To Miscarry - VIDEO
If abortion advocates believed their own rhetoric, they’d oppose the Trust Nevada Women Act.
Las Vegas city council candidate Diaz talks about Badlands, public safety and homelessness
The residents of Las Vegas’ Ward 3 aren’t thinking about the development issues surrounding Badlands golf course. They do, however, want more neighborhood police patrols to increase public safety. Other jurisdictions should help the City of Las Vegas with its growing homelessness population. That’s according to former Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz who’s running for the Ward 3 city council seat.
Nevada State Senate Looks At Red Light Cameras - VIDEO
The Nevada State Senate looks at a bill that will add red light cameras to all of the traffic lights in Las Vegas.
THE LATEST
Documents give rare look inside Syrian government crackdown

Documents purportedly found in abandoned Syrian government offices during the civil war reveal the reach of President Bashar Assad’s security agencies, according to a report.

Rescued from boneyard, transport plane to join D-Day anniversary

Filled with paratroopers, a U.S. warplane lumbered down an English runway in 1944 to spearhead the World War II D-Day invasion with a message for Adolf Hitler painted in bright yellow across its nose: “That’s All, Brother.”

Yemen rebels say drone hits arms depot at Saudi airport

The Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel said early Tuesday they targeted the airport in Najran with a Qasef-2K drone, striking an “arms depot” there.

Parents leave behind newborn baby in German taxi

Dad’s attempt to catch the cab on foot failed and the driver, unaware of his sleeping stowaway, parked the taxi in an underground garage to go for lunch.