Trump's distorted view of life in El Paso

Article Image

Ahead of Trump's Monday night rally in El Paso, CNN's John King explains the barriers already in place on the border and why the president is focused on El Paso.

Posted: Feb 11, 2019 5:30 PM
Updated: Feb 11, 2019 5:30 PM

President Donald Trump's visit to El Paso, Texas on Monday will mark a turning point for the city, forcing residents to reconcile political differences on their home turf.

While Trump speaks at the El Paso County Coliseum -- just steps away from the US-Mexico border -- the city will have to confront the reality that our community is not united in protecting the immigrant community and its contributions to our city.

In short, the rally has forced El Pasoans to answer two major questions: What do we believe in? And who do we want to support?

At the very least, we can believe in some facts. During his State of the Union address last week, Trump claimed that El Paso had been "one of the most dangerous cities in the country" before an eyesore of a fence was installed at the border in 2008-2009. But according to El Paso Police Department records, the murder rate in El Paso remained largely the same from 2000-2016, with an average of 16 murders per year. In other words, the fencing did little to reduce the low murder rate we already had.

But I did not need police records to tell me my city was safe before border fencing was installed. I've lived on the border for most of my life.

During my high school years, from 2003 to 2007, my friends and I joined our older classmates in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to drink cheap cocktails, eat hot dogs on the sidewalk, and still make it home by our 11 p.m. curfew -- the way our parents and their parents did before us. This continued through 2008, until the drug violence in Juarez escalated. And even then, the escalation later positively impacted El Paso's economy, as families and businesses moved across the border.

In college, from 2007 to 2011, my girlfriends and I would regularly go out in entertainment districts in downtown El Paso. I never felt threatened or in any kind of danger. The worst run-ins were with drunk men at bars.

But misrepresenting the safety of El Paso before the building of the fence isn't Trump's only mistake.

In 2007, a year after former President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, giving the greenlight to build the fence in El Paso, as well as in other towns along the border, the crime rate in El Paso began to increase. From 2007 to 2010, while murders did not increase, overall crime increased by 5.5%, according to the FBI. Those numbers have since decreased again.

Still, El Paso remained one of the safest cities to live in. In 2018, US News and World Report ranked El Paso as No. 11 for "best places to retire" because of the city's safety and economy. In the same year, author Gary Shteyngart took a cross-country road trip and decided, on PBS's NewsHour segment "In My Humble Opinion," that El Pasoans are the happiest people in the country. Hardly surprising to me, since El Paso is a place that welcomes outsiders and takes pride in hospitality.

Even with an increase in crime post fencing, the first time I felt unsafe in El Paso was November 2016, after Trump was elected. I feared for my reproductive rights, healthcare and overall safety. More specifically, I feared that my work as a journalist might place me in unsafe situations because of the hostility MAGA rally attendees often display toward the press -- and that El Paso would become the site of tragedy if the lives of immigrants here were suddenly disrupted.

In 2017, Trump threatened a "border-adjustment tax" that would be imposed on goods coming in from Mexico. The tax would be placed on goods based on the location of their final consumption -- rather than the site of production. In other words, El Pasoans would end up paying more for these products. Critics said that the move could result in a trade war, starting in El Paso, and Trump and GOP leaders opted to drop it. Instead, Trump has negotiated a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, a revamped version of NAFTA.

Yet again, Trump's proposed border wall challenges the way the city has successfully operated for years, and many fear new border security measures are being decided without understanding the unique needs and demographics of the city. For example, many students who attend the University of Texas at El Paso are Mexican nationals who legally cross over every day to attend classes, and the city flourishes from bi-national commerce.

Even with all these facts in hand, El Pasoans remain divided. Liberals in El Paso are outraged by the inaccurate statements that Trump has made on the public stage. "It was heartbreaking for me to sit as I listened to someone demean and belittle all the greatness of my community," Senaida Nevar, Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar's guest at the State of the Union, told me.

"Everything that El Paso is today is a direct result of the values and principles that every resident, be it an immigrant or citizen, has worked so hard to preserve," she added.

And Beto O'Rourke is hosting his own rally, not far from Trump's, where he is scheduled to speak about why a wall is unnecessary, reiterating many facts that seem to have been forgotten.

At the same time, those who support the President's stance are incensed that their views are not being respected by those across the aisle. They believe they are protecting the country from rampant violence and crime, even if the statistics do not entirely support their beliefs.

Perhaps they are also benefiting from taking a hardline stance. According to Vincent Perez, El Paso County Commissioner, El Paso generated more than $22 million in revenue in 2017 for detaining federal inmates, the majority incarcerated for immigration-related crimes.

For years, El Paso has maintained a contract with the government to house federal inmates. "We're required to provide at least 500 beds or at least make available to the federal government," Perez told me. "But what we're seeing with this rush of migrants, that number is sometimes higher than 900.

"So, it's no coincidence that the largest share of the population of these inmates that we house at the county jail are here on immigration-related charges."

Regardless of the outcome of today's rallies, El Pasoans should not rush to build walls. Instead, we should focus on the facts and start a dialogue in which both sides meet in the middle.

Terre Haute
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 45°
Robinson
Overcast
47° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 44°
Indianapolis
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 42°
Rockville
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 41°
Casey
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 40°
Brazil
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 45°
Marshall
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 45°
Cloudy night with scattered sprinkles
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Sunday Evening Forecast

Image

New named tropical storm

Image

Unreal Nightmare Escapes

Image

Church offers trunk-or-treat

Image

Jeep Junkies Trunk-or-Treat

Image

Riders compete at Griffin Bike Park

Image

College Goal Sunday

Image

Remembering Leeam Pritcher

Image

Bike competition this weekend

Image

Bikes for Tykes Assembly Day

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 374901

Reported Deaths: 9751
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1738175409
DuPage22546607
Lake20485509
Will18179427
Kane16453347
Winnebago10052180
St. Clair7878218
Madison7084154
McHenry6225120
Champaign604829
Unassigned4787270
Peoria448570
McLean410334
Rock Island396090
Sangamon389663
Kankakee336680
Macon296951
Kendall263030
Tazewell259456
LaSalle237863
DeKalb231742
Coles189639
Williamson185759
Adams183819
Boone183025
Clinton173326
Vermilion169710
Jackson152426
Whiteside138725
Knox127216
Randolph124915
Ogle11857
Effingham11594
Marion99119
Grundy9607
Franklin9529
Stephenson9497
Monroe90329
Bureau89517
Jefferson89348
Morgan89024
Henry8427
Christian81129
Macoupin78410
Union78425
McDonough73920
Lee7051
Fayette67422
Douglas6559
Shelby65312
Crawford6446
Livingston62610
Montgomery60916
Woodford59614
Logan5894
Saline5559
Fulton4981
Warren4938
Iroquois48919
Bond4889
Jo Daviess4867
Wayne48112
Jersey47021
Cass46011
Perry43016
Moultrie4084
Carroll40111
Johnson3460
Richland33316
Lawrence3328
Pike3326
Hancock3094
Clark30717
Clay30713
Washington3012
Mason3001
Greene28715
Cumberland2816
White2644
Jasper26110
De Witt2556
Mercer2526
Piatt2440
Pulaski2351
Wabash2205
Ford19112
Menard1821
Massac1542
Edgar15310
Marshall1503
Henderson1280
Alexander1201
Hamilton1172
Brown1070
Edwards1070
Gallatin1062
Scott1020
Schuyler911
Putnam900
Stark853
Calhoun670
Hardin530
Pope421
Out of IL80

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 160454

Reported Deaths: 4118
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25691791
Lake14023358
St. Joseph9399165
Elkhart9026137
Allen8424230
Hamilton6293114
Vanderburgh601161
Tippecanoe383615
Hendricks3337133
Porter332350
Monroe330338
Johnson3207129
Delaware303474
Clark300763
Vigo268740
Madison244996
LaPorte231760
Cass226922
Warrick199565
Kosciusko193727
Floyd183968
Howard167066
Bartholomew145358
Dubois142726
Marshall142726
Wayne135331
Grant129739
Henry129730
Boone126950
Hancock122344
Noble119135
Jackson116417
Dearborn100028
Morgan97440
Lawrence94037
Gibson91512
Daviess90234
Clinton88916
Shelby87231
LaGrange82115
Knox79510
Harrison78324
Putnam75616
Posey7556
DeKalb74511
Fayette73218
Jasper6435
Miami6425
Steuben6408
Montgomery60422
White59915
Greene55838
Scott53413
Decatur51739
Adams5107
Whitley4696
Ripley4668
Clay4567
Sullivan45214
Wells44211
Starke4328
Wabash4329
Huntington4215
Orange41725
Spencer4046
Washington3843
Franklin37925
Jennings37313
Randolph37210
Fulton3714
Jefferson3455
Pike34018
Perry33314
Carroll33213
Jay3256
Fountain3193
Tipton28023
Vermillion2601
Parke2464
Blackford2313
Newton23011
Rush2254
Owen2101
Martin2010
Crawford1601
Pulaski1602
Brown1463
Ohio1317
Union1120
Benton1090
Switzerland960
Warren891
Unassigned0236