In yesterday’s “Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’” we looked at what New Mexico and Arizona residents, local papers, and Border Patrol officials have to say about the President’s proposed Wall and the alleged “crisis” at our shared border with Mexico. Today, let’s at least glance at the State of Texas, especially since POTUS just visited there to drum up support for the Wall, and see if we can get at least a bird’s eye view of what the situation looks like from there.
President Trump visited the city of McAllen, Texas on Thursday, January 10th, to advance his case for his promised Wall along the Southwest border as an essential necessity in combating illegal immigration, especially focusing on drug smuggling and other contraband, terrorism, gangs and other critical problems allegedly tied directly to illegal immigrants crossing over from Mexico. His simple point remains the same as it has since at least 2015: The U. S. needs a wall all along the Mexican border for security.
If this is true, then one might logically expect the fairly elected mayor of McAllen to agree with the President. One might reasonably expect the mayor to fully support the President’s assertion that there is, indeed, a “crisis” at the border … but this is simply not the case. Following Trump’s visit, McAllen’s mayor, Jim Darling, told Time pointblank, “We don’t feel a crisis in our city… We live day to day in a very safe community.”
Darling further pointed out that McAllen is “a vibrant area” and “the safest city in the state of Texas, and we’re right on the border, so that kind of rhetoric,” about crisis, “resonates and sells newspapers, but it hurts our area.” He added the fact that McAllen had “no murders last year in a city of 150,000…” In a city of that size, especially along a border in “crisis,” one would expect things to be grimmer.
Furthermore, Julie Hillrichs, who represents a coalition of border mayors, judges, and other officials, told Time that “the real way to increase security at the border would not be a wall, but increased investment in the legal ports of entry that already exist in their area. ‘We have never supported the wall,” Hillrichs says. “The Border Coalition has consistently over the years stated we believe the wall is a wasted investment.'”
But the Attorney General for Texas, Ken Paxton, claimed fencing along the border in El Paso has helped to substantially reduce crime in that city, which, he further claimed, had previously had one of the highest crime rates in the nation. “After that fence went up and separated Juarez, which still has an extremely high crime rate, the crime rates in El Paso now are some of the lowest in the country,” Paxton said. “So we know it works.”
El Paso may not quite agree, however. In a January 10, 2019, article the El Paso Times investigated the AG’s claim and found that this is simply “not the case.” The paper further, and importantly, explained:
Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported. The border fence was authorized by Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008. From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent.
Point in fact, in January 2018, community leaders and law enforcement officials in El Paso credited a number of developments, programs and efforts that have resulted in lowering crime rates … not border fencing.
Meanwhile, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Trump during his Thursday visit to McAllen, except it wasn’t really a discussion. Saenz said, following the event, he felt rather “disenfranchised” because he was, quite frankly, not able (or allowed) to make any contributions whatsoever. On Friday, January 11th, the Laredo Morning News reported him saying:
There was a disconnect. Maybe he (Trump) gets information, but really he ought to take into account the border leaders, the mayors and county judges – input that he didn’t get because there was no opportunity for us to provide that information… We need to make our own evaluations locally to come up with the best plan.
The editorial board of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times judge the proposed Wall would be “like setting fire to billions of dollars,” and that “money would be better spent on stronger administration and enforcement at the ports of entry and better technological monitoring of the remote places where Donald Trump envisions a tall physical barrier.” In its December 2018 article, simply concludes that the Wall is “not the solution.”
Once again, seemingly not much support for the Wall, at least along the borders in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll take a look at California, or more appropriately southern Cal, to gain some local perspective there. So far, though, it seems folks along the border, with the majority of Americans, favor better and tighter border security, but by other more effective means than a wall.