Hawke's Bay Today

El Paso residents say they don’t need a border wall


People walking over the Paso del Norte Bridge linking the West Texas border city of El Paso to Mexico get an idea of what President Donald Trump’s border wall might look like. Trump wants a 1600km wall along the United States’ 3150km border with Mexico. While no new stretches of wall have been built since Trump took office at the start of 2016, some portions of the existing 1050km of fencing and barriers are being replaced, including a section at El Paso. Workers in the border city can be seen digging trenches, pouring concrete and erecting rust-coloured slabs of 5.5-high metal to replace layers of barbed wire-topped fencing along the 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 little attention. 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 in El Paso. He’s holding a rally there today to show why he’s demanding the wall, costing US$5.7 billion ($8.4b), along the 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. Trump said barriers turned El Paso from one of the nation’s most dangerous cities to one of its safest, but that’s not true. El Paso, with a population of around 800,000, had a murder rate of less than half the national average in 2005, a year before the most recent expansion of its border fence. Many residents say 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. 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 march today opposing the wall with local civic, human rights and Hispanic groups at the same time Trump is holding his rally.

 ?? Photo / AP ?? A 5.5m-high metal barrier is replacing the border fence that ran through El Paso.
Photo / AP A 5.5m-high metal barrier is replacing the border fence that ran through El Paso.
 ??  ?? Beto O’Rourke
Beto O’Rourke
 ??  ?? Donald Trump
Donald Trump

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