By Simon Romero
Ahead of President Donald Trump’s scheduled rally in this West Texas city aimed at building support for his proposed wall on the border with Mexico, people from across the ideological spectrum in El Paso had a message for him on Sunday: Don’t speak for us.
“The president is just wrong about the wall and wrong about El Paso,” said Jon Barela, a lifelong Republican and chief executive of the Borderplex Alliance, an organization promoting economic development in a cross-border industrial hub with a combined population of more than 2.7 million, taking in the cities of El Paso, Ciudad Juárez and Las Cruces.
Barela disputed Trump’s widely discredited assertion that border fencing had cut violent crime in El Paso, pointing to FBI data showing the city has ranked for decades among the safest urban areas its size in the United States — long before U.S. authorities started building some fencing along the border about a decade ago.
“As a fiscally conservative Republican, I just don’t understand how spending $25 billion on a wall with limited effectiveness is a good idea,” Barela said in an interview. “Mexico is an economic and strategic ally of the United States, and an antiquated effort to place a barrier between us just won’t work.”
Dee Margo, the Republican mayor of El Paso, voiced similar criticism of Trump’s description of El Paso, in his State of the Union address, as “one of the nation’s most dangerous cities” before the barrier went up on the border. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat recently elected to Congress to represent El Paso, is asking Trump to apologize and meet with migrant families seeking asylum in the United States.
Still, for many others in this city of immigrants the mere idea of Trump coming to El Paso to promote his administration’s crackdown on immigration raises hackles.
“The president of the United States is, disgracefully, nothing more than a racist,” said Mayra Cabral, 37, an immigrant who grew up across the border in Ciudad Juárez and now cleans tables at a restaurant in El Paso, where she has lived for the past 19 years after marrying a U.S. citizen.