El Paso residents dispute claims about benefits from border wall

World Today

In this Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, photo, a new barrier is built along the Texas-Mexico border near downtown El Paso. Such barriers have been a part of El Paso for decades and are currently being expanded, even as the fight over President Donald Trump’s desire to wall off the entire U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

U.S. President Trump says a wall is necessary to bring stability to the country’s border with Mexico. He points to the city of El Paso, Texas as a model to follow. The president says violent crime fell significantly once a wall was built in the border city, but that’s something some of the city’s residents say is not true.

CGTN’s Dan Williams has details.

A long line of fencing snakes along the Rio Grande separating the U.S. city of El Paso and Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez.  This barrier was completed in 2009. U.S. President Donald Trump hails it as the blueprint for the U.S. southern border.  He says that once the wall was built, violent crime in the city fell dramatically but local organizations say that’s simply not the case.

“That’s laughable,” says Fernando Garcia, with the Border Network for Human Rights. “If you live in El Paso, and you were here in El Paso the last twenty years or thirty years as we have been doing this work, you would know that is a lie, and that is a distortion of the reality. El Paso started being one of the safest cities by 2004. The timelines are different. However, the president wrongfully with ill intention, connects the two timelines.”

According to Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) statistics, violent crime in El Paso declined since the mid-1990s.  The city has consistently ranked in the top five of safest U.S. cities since 2004. Despite the barrier that separates them, these two cities in two different nations are deeply intertwined.  Thousands of people cross one of the border posts every day.  To work, to shop, to attend college before returning home. Many residents in El Paso feel the President’s comments undermine the city’s reputation.

“There’s often a lot of statements as to what its like living in a border city and how unsafe it is,” says one local resident. “And that’s just a complete mischaracterization intentionally to make people feel unsafe in a place where there is no reason to feel unsafe.”

“They are saying that a wall protects us, but the people protect us,” says another. “The people are safe because of the people, not because of the wall.”

This is the supposed front line of the national emergency, but according to the U.S. Customs and Border Production agency, there has been a sharp reduction in the number of apprehensions at the southern border compared to previous decades. If the wall is extended, some groups fear that migrants will simply take more desperate paths. 

“What you will see then is more people in danger,” says Garcia. “We already have 500 migrants die each year because of this heavy enforcement and militarized border. So we are going to see that increase. More people are dying in the hands of criminal organizations who have the capacity to bring people out. In the sea’s or in the deserts, you will see that.”

A barrier may separate El Paso from Juarez, but it would appear that many here simply don’t buy into the narrative that a wall has brought them peace and safety.