El Paso mayor: We work well with Mex­ico

Cross-bor­der ties make us strong, not dan­ger­ous

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS | OPINION - Dee Margo Dee Margo, a Repub­li­can, is the mayor of El Paso, Texas.

We in El Paso, Texas, are a com­mu­nity that tran­scends the bor­der. While some are con­cerned about our prox­im­ity to Mex­ico, we choose to cel­e­brate it. While oth­ers em­brace build­ing a wall, we re­mind them a fence al­ready ex­ists.

Our com­mu­nity has con­sis­tently been ranked as one of the safest in the United States. Though Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, in his re­cent State of the Union ad­dress, claimed that the bor­der fence is the rea­son for these ac­co­lades, it is not the full pic­ture.

Our city po­lice’s com­mu­nity-re­la­tions ef­forts and the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween our law en­force­ment agen­cies con­trib­uted to mak­ing our city a safe place to live and work be­fore bor­der fenc­ing was put in place. In fact, be­tween 1996 and 2006, the num­ber of re­ported vi­o­lent crimes fell by more than 34 per­cent.

Con­struc­tion on the bor­der fenc­ing in El Paso did not start un­til 2008, and it was com­pleted by mid-2009. The bar­rier be­tween El Paso and Juarez, Mex­ico, has ap­peared to act as a de­ter­rent for non­vi­o­lent crime, but it is our com­mu­nity’s in­vest­ment in our pub­lic safety and the ded­i­ca­tion of our law en­force­ment agen­cies that con­tinue to keep us safe.

It re­mains my pri­or­ity as the mayor of El Paso to en­sure that we pro­tect our cit­i­zens and com­mu­nity. We are the sixth largest city in Texas and the 20th largest city in the United States. We are also the nexus of three states (New Mex­ico, Texas and the Mex­i­can state of Chi­huahua), two coun­tries and a re­gion sur­pass­ing 2.5 mil­lion in pop­u­la­tion. We have a highly bi­na­tional, bilin­gual, bi­cul­tural work­force and a pop­u­la­tion with a me­dian age of 33.

As a bi­na­tional re­gion, we are more than 400 years old. Our city sur­rounds a moun­tain, with a state park within our city lim­its. To­day, we are a global metro­plex seam­lessly blend­ing U.S. and Mex­i­can tra­di­tions and cul­tures. Fam­i­lies live and work on both sides of the bor­der, and our sense of com­mu­nity is strong.

We are the 11th largest U.S. land port and have mul­ti­ple land bridges that ac­com­mo­date 20,000 le­gal pedes­tri­ans com­ing north daily and nearly 25 mil­lion peo­ple who cross in cars or on foot an­nu­ally. The cross-bor­der com­merce be­tween our states is as im­por­tant as the cross-bor­der com­mu­nity.

Con­trary to what you might hear or per­ceive, our city’s re­la­tion­ship with Mex­ico has ush­ered in an era of eco­nomic growth and re­gional par­tic­i­pa­tion. To­day, dozens of For­tune 500 com­pa­nies re­side in Juarez, the Mex­i­can city on the other side of our bor­der fence, for man­u­fac­tur­ing assem­bly.

The maquiladora pro­gram, in which com­pa­nies from for­eign coun­tries like the United States op­er­ate fac­to­ries in Mex­ico, has been a great ben­e­fit to El Paso. U.S. raw ma­te­ri­als are sent to Mex­ico for man­u­fac­tur­ing assem­bly and re­turned to the United States. Du­ties are paid on the la­bor value added.

In­stead of look­ing to vil­ify our com­mu­nity, I im­plore pol­icy ad­vis­ers from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to come to El Paso.

Talk with our res­i­dents, eat at our restau­rants, walk our streets — you’ll find that our city of­fers a truly safe and in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. When Pres­i­dent Trump vis­its our city Mon­day, he will see for him­self.

JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

The sky­line of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mex­ico.

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