Trump's False Statements About Safety In El Paso, Texas, Have Struck A Nerve

Feb 11, 2019
Originally published on February 12, 2019 12:07 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Here in Washington, congressional Republicans and Democrats are seeing if they can rescue talks on border security and maybe, just maybe, reach a bipartisan deal.

President Trump is making his case for a border wall directly to voters tonight at a rally in El Paso, Texas, a city where Trump got just over a quarter of the votes cast in the 2016 election.

To learn how people in El Paso are viewing the president's visit, let's bring in Dallas Morning News reporter Alfredo Corchado. He's in El Paso himself, and he joins us from there.

Hey there, Alfredo.

ALFREDO CORCHADO: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Great to have you with us. What's the vibe there in El Paso ahead of the rally tonight?

CORCHADO: Well, people are usually excited about a presidential visit. I don't think excitement is the word that I would use for tonight's visit by President Trump. People are still angry, and they're downright insulted that the president would use this community to try to make his point, to try to make his case that a wall is needed to keep a city safe. He said at the State of the Union that El Paso was one of the most dangerous cities, had been until they started building barriers. That hasn't been the case. That's never been the case. Historically, El Paso was and remains a safe city.

KELLY: Right. You're talking about the State of the Union address last week. He did refer to extremely high rates of violent crime, he said, in El Paso before fencing went up a decade or so ago. And then he said after the fencing was put in place that crime came down. You said that's made people in El Paso mad. What are the facts in terms of the crime rate and any relationship that we can parse with a barrier being put in place?

CORCHADO: Well, according to FBI tracking data, El Paso has ranked among the safest urban cities of its size even before or after 9/11. That's when President Bush began the secure fence project along the border. In fact, after the fence went up, beginning in 2006 until 2011, crime rates in the city actually increased by 17 percent. And that's according...

KELLY: Increased by 17 percent?

CORCHADO: Increased by 17 percent.

KELLY: And is that linked to the barrier or do we know?

CORCHADO: It's not clear yet. During that - part of that period, we also saw one of the most - biggest violence on the Mexican side of the border in Ciudad Juarez and other Mexican border communities. But it's not clear whether there was a tie, there was a correlation between the two. That's something that we continue to explore.

KELLY: Bottom line - you're saying people in El Paso believe their city is safe and do not believe they need a big wall to make it safer. Is that correct?

CORCHADO: That's correct. I mean, people in a El Paso see themselves as safe. And they hope to take back their narrative by demonstrating that their city is civil, is tolerant, is safe. And that's a message that they hope that gets across.

KELLY: So what kind of crowd is expected for the rally tonight? Are there signs that there may be any protests or counter-protests coming together?

CORCHADO: Well, the El Paso County Coliseum holds up to about 6,000 people. And what we've been told is that all the tickets have been issued. So they expect a good crowd, which is not really surprising. I mean, I think there's going to be a lot of supporters. There is a lot of curiosity from El Pasoans. I mean, it's not every day that a president comes to El Paso.

But there's going to be thousands of people expected for what they call a march of truth, a rally that's going to be led by El Paso native and former Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who will make, as we turn to the national spotlight, as a potential challenger to Trump in 2020.

KELLY: I assume his event - it's not a coincidence that this is timed for the very same evening as the president's visit.

CORCHADO: I don't think it's a coincidence.

KELLY: A split-screen-kind of evening unfolding tonight in El Paso.

Alfredo Corchado, reporter for the Dallas Morning News, thanks so much for joining us.

CORCHADO: Thank you very much, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.