Wall backers argue they have to keep doors locked
“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
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.