El Paso res­i­dents to Trump: Don’t speak for us

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Si­mon Romero

EL PASO, Texas – Ahead of Pres­i­dent 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 Juarez 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 that 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.

The ten­sion sur­round­ing Trump’s planned visit to El Paso to­day is re­veal­ing po­lit­i­cal fis­sures. A Demo­cratic bas­tion in a state where Repub­li­cans have long wielded dom­i­nance in statewide pol­i­tics, El Paso is also home to Beto O’Rourke, the for­mer lo­cal con­gress­man who is a star of the Demo­cratic Party and a po­ten­tial chal­lenger to Trump in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

At the same time Trump is sched­uled to speak be­fore about 6,000 people at the El Paso County Coli­seum, O’Rourke will speak at another rally a mile away. O’Rourke said in an es­say on Medium that Trump “will prom­ise a wall and will re­peat his lies about the dan­gers that im­mi­grants pose.”

El Paso, where His­pan­ics ac­count for about 80 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, was al­ready hos­tile ground for Trump. In the 2016 elec­tion, he took only about 26 per­cent of the vote in El Paso County. Still, some of his sup­port­ers in the city re­main ea­ger to hear what Trump has to say.

“I’d like to see a wall go up along the en­tire bor­der,” said Joshua As­cen­cio, 21, a cavalry scout in the U.S. Army who has plans to be­come an agent with the Bor­der Pa­trol when he leaves the mil­i­tary. As­cen­cio said he was look­ing for­ward to Trump’s rally.

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 Juarez 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.

Cabral laughed out loud when asked about Trump’s claims that His­panic im­mi­grants bring crime to the United States. She said El Paso is nor­mally so calm that it’s “bor­ing here some­times.” Cabral added that she and her fam­ily were not get­ting way­laid by talk of the pres­i­dent’s visit; on Satur­day night, they hosted a quincean­era for her 15-year-old daugh­ter at­tended by about 300 people.

“I was able to do this for my daugh­ter be­cause I work at a job that people born in the United States won’t do,” Cabral said. “Trump likes to call us crim­i­nals, but what about all the Amer­i­cans in the coun­try who com­mit vi­o­lent crimes? Why doesn’t he talk about them for once?”

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