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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 52037

Reported Deaths: 2762
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12111693
Lake5677249
Elkhart366260
Allen2971134
St. Joseph221169
Hamilton1735101
Cass16489
Hendricks1470100
Johnson1351118
Porter84938
Vanderburgh8016
Tippecanoe7859
Clark71944
Madison68164
LaPorte62928
Howard61058
Bartholomew60545
Kosciusko5844
Marshall57011
Noble52428
Boone49244
LaGrange48710
Delaware48152
Jackson4793
Hancock47436
Shelby46025
Floyd41844
Monroe36128
Morgan34431
Grant32226
Dubois3196
Henry30318
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27810
Dearborn27123
Warrick26829
Vigo2618
Decatur25732
Lawrence25325
Harrison21822
Greene19932
Miami1942
Jennings17912
Putnam1748
DeKalb1694
Scott1659
Wayne1596
Daviess15117
Perry15110
Steuben1402
Orange13823
Jasper1362
Ripley1357
Franklin1288
Gibson1282
Wabash1193
Carroll1142
Starke1093
Fayette1087
Whitley1086
Newton10110
Huntington942
Jefferson872
Wells831
Randolph804
Fulton761
Jay720
Knox710
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Posey640
Rush623
Spencer591
Owen531
Benton510
Sullivan511
Adams491
Brown441
Blackford402
Fountain362
Crawford330
Tipton331
Switzerland320
Parke280
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike120
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 66853

Reported Deaths: 3064
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin12301449
Cuyahoga9359399
Hamilton7046208
Lucas3079306
Marion275539
Montgomery257936
Summit2382209
Pickaway222942
Mahoning1971239
Butler189747
Columbiana139560
Stark1244116
Lorain118970
Trumbull106678
Warren101826
Clark82010
Delaware76315
Fairfield71917
Lake62723
Tuscarawas62110
Licking60012
Medina59932
Belmont57324
Clermont5157
Miami51431
Wood51051
Portage50960
Ashtabula45244
Geauga43143
Richland3906
Allen38541
Wayne37655
Greene3659
Mercer30410
Erie30122
Holmes2625
Darke26126
Huron2602
Madison2259
Ottawa21724
Athens1921
Sandusky17615
Ross1503
Washington14720
Putnam14515
Coshocton1434
Crawford1405
Jefferson1272
Morrow1271
Hardin12512
Union1151
Auglaize1124
Muskingum1061
Preble961
Lawrence920
Clinton912
Monroe8917
Hancock871
Hocking839
Guernsey824
Scioto770
Shelby774
Williams772
Carroll713
Logan711
Ashland692
Fulton680
Wyandot665
Brown621
Fayette580
Highland581
Champaign571
Knox571
Defiance553
Van Wert491
Perry481
Seneca442
Henry370
Paulding340
Jackson310
Pike290
Adams282
Vinton232
Gallia211
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan120
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Angola
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 73°
Huntington
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 73°
Van Wert
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 73°
Warmer Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events