Pres­sure builds

Wall back­ers ar­gue they have to keep doors locked

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Rick Jervis

“I live pay­check to pay­check”: Fed­eral work­ers feel the pain. Mean­while, Trump vis­its bor­der in Texas, and res­i­dents weigh in.

MCALLEN, Texas – Peo­ple and busi­nesses across this bor­der city re­flected the na­tional de­bate rag­ing over Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bor­der wall dur­ing his visit Thursday.

Pro­test­ers fa­vor­ing the wall and those op­posed to new bar­ri­ers took to the streets as some res­i­dents in­sisted there was no cri­sis.

Across the street from U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion’s McAllen Sta­tion, demon­stra­tors lined the side­walk.

Anti-Trump pro­test­ers inflated a Trump-baby blimp, while the pres­i­dent’s sup­port­ers chanted, “Build that Wall!”

Ed­die Zamora waved a large blue “TRUMP” flag as the Trump-baby blimp floated be­hind him. He said he sup­ported a wall to se­cure his com­mu­nity. “I guar­an­tee every­body out here locks their doors at night,” he said.

At the Catholic Char­i­ties of the Rio Grande Val­ley Hu­man­i­tar­ian Respite Cen­ter, which helps im­mi­grants re­leased from fed­eral cus­tody, chil­dren rum­maged through bins of do­nated toys, and vol­un­teers handed out or­anges. Sis­ter Norma Pi­mentel, who runs the cen­ter, said about 100 mi­grants were there, down from a daily av­er­age of 300 to 500 in De­cem­ber – high for De­cem­ber but lower than pre­vi­ous years.

Pi­mentel said she doesn’t see the crim­i­nal mi­grants Trump warned about in his Oval Of­fice speech Tuesday night and is con­fi­dent Bor­der Pa­trol agents and other law en­force­ment of­fi­cials keep those crim­i­nals from en­ter­ing the coun­try. The mi­grants she sees on a daily ba­sis are mostly fam­i­lies flee­ing vi­o­lence in their own coun­tries and seek­ing a bet­ter life in the USA, she said.

Pi­mentel said she hopes Trump gets a fuller pic­ture of the bor­der sit­u­a­tion from his visit. “I’m hope­ful he’ll bet­ter un­der­stand the whole re­al­ity,” she said.

She smiled and added, “He’s al­ways wel­comed here.”

Trump has claimed a se­cu­rity and hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis to try to jus­tify his de­mand for $5.7 bil­lion to ex­tend the bor­der wall, and the de­bate has driven Wash­ing­ton to a par­tial govern­ment shut­down that has dragged on for three weeks. The pres­i­dent walked out of a White House meet­ing with con­gres­sional Democrats Wednesday.

He tweeted Thursday morn­ing that he gets “great sup­port” for his bor­der wall stance, though opin­ion polls show oth­er­wise: A Reuters/Ip­sos poll found that 35 per­cent of U.S. adults sup­port a spend­ing bill that in­cludes fund­ing for the wall, and 25 per­cent sup­port the shut­down.

Trump landed in McAllen Thursday af­ter­noon. He plans to visit por­tions of the Rio Grande, which forms much of the bor­der be­tween the USA and Mex­ico, and is sched­uled to re­ceive brief­ings at each stop from Bor­der Pa­trol agents.

McAllen is one of the largest cities along the U.S.-Mex­i­can bor­der, where 140,000 peo­ple live di­rectly across the Rio Grande from the Mex­i­can city of Reynosa, where 670,000 peo­ple live. Thou­sands cross the bor­der each day, form­ing a long-stand­ing, bi­na­tional com­mu­nity where res­i­dents de­pend on goods and ser­vices on both sides.

Tony Tor­res, 50, said a lot of peo­ple in McAllen sup­port Trump and his poli­cies but are of­ten afraid to speak out in the heav­ily Latino and Demo­cratic city.

“We need bor­der se­cu­rity,” Tor­res said, hold­ing a “Lati­nos for Trump” sign. “We have a lot of il­le­gals com­ing over the bor­der, a lot of drugs com­ing over. And it needs to stop.”

A few yards away on the same street corner, pro­test­ers waved signs de­nounc­ing the wall and Trump.

“How dare he come to our val­ley, when he doesn’t like our peo­ple?” said Blanca Silva, 68, a re­tired teacher.

Con­tribut­ing: Alan Gomez, USA TO­DAY; Beatriz Al­varado of the Corpus Christi Caller Times

RICK JERVIS/USA TO­DAY

Amid the buzz and the blare over Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s visit to McAllen, Texas, the Cine El Rey’s mar­quee an­nounces that the bor­der city is ranked as one of the safest in the coun­try.

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