Border wall debate worries one community between Texas and Mexico

World Today

In the final part of the week-long series on the U.S. southern border, we go to the city of El Paso, in Texas. U.S. President Donald Trump said the wall that was built there in 2008 made the state a safer place. But the mayor said otherwise, and others believe the wall splits the community.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports from the border lines.

The region between the border cities of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico is home to 2.5 million people. This makes the region one of the largest binational urban areas on the border.

“You can go to the top of one of our bank buildings and look south and you cannot tell where El Paso ends and Juarez begins,” said Dee Margo, the mayor of El Paso.

What does separate the two cities is a towering fence or border wall. This barrier runs for some 200 kilometers and was erected 2008.

Between 2008 and 2012, the city of Juarez was labelled the world’s most violent city as drug violence increased and cartel rivals fought to gain control of the border city.

Trump said the contrast between the two cities demonstrates the effectiveness of a wall. But that’s not the case according to Mayor Margo.

“We were considered the number two or number three as the safest city in the nation before the fence went up, and we’re number one since. There wasn’t a dramatic change,” said Mayor Margo.

For many, family life is so scattered across the border that the two communities remain intertwined regardless of a wall or barrier fence.

“People live in Juarez, [some] live in El Paso with their families,” said Jose Arturo Ramos, from the Juarez Binational Affairs Office. “We live that way but we have to show the world that we are a community.”

Huge lines of traffic, all coming in from Mexico and adding hours of commute, is one of the key factors that threatens to undermine the local economy.

The journey time from Juarez into El Paso can take as long as five hours to cross by car and even longer for trucks.

The Kentucky Bar in Juarez relies on tourism thanks to a pretty decent claim to fame. It is here, they said, where the Margarita drink was invented.

Legend has it a barman concocted the cocktail after a customer had asked for a special drink for his wife, Margarita.

The establishment said it sells as many as 1,600 of them a day but the long queues at the border are damaging trade.

The situation could get worse. In March, President Trump threatened to close the border with Mexico.

Back in El Paso, Dusty Henson began selling saddle blankets in 1970. The company has since grown to include an eclectic range of products. Henson said closing the border would be devastating.

“For me personally, it is everything. We do a few other countries, South America, Central America but Mexico is the main place,” said Henson, the owner and founder of The El Paso Saddleblanket Company. “If they shut that border down and close it off, it is going to hurt a lot of people. It will shut us down.”

Some people here would like to see the wall removed completely allowing the region to unite.

“The wall is disrupting the historic relations between the two communities,” said Fernando Garcia from the Border Network for Human Rights. “El Paso and Juarez cannot be understood by themselves. I think we are one community at the end of the day and that wall divides this community.”

Dan Williams on reaction along the US-Mexico border to a new wall

CGTN’s Mike Walter talked to correspondent Dan Williams about his experiences reporting on reaction to U.S. plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico.