A day after the city was featured prominently in his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump announced that he will hold his first campaign rally of the year in El Paso, Texas.
The Monday rally, which will take place just four days before the February 15 deadline for congressional negotiators to come up with a compromise and avoid another partial government shutdown, will highlight president’s insistence that money be designated in the deal for the wall he wants built along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump plans to rally supporters on Monday night at the county coliseum.
His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted that the rally will be held “less than 1000 feet from the successful border fence that keeps El Paso safe!”
In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Trump cited El Paso as once having “extremely high rates of violent crime.”
He asserted that once a wall was built there, “El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country.”
“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities,” Trump said. “Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”
“Simply put,” he added, “walls work, and walls save lives.”
Democrats oppose a wall but have offered to fund technology and other border security measures.
A stalemate over the issue led to a record 35-day shutdown that ended January 25.
Few people dispute that fences contributed to a sharp drop in border crossings in cities such as San Diego and El Paso, but Texas officials also cite other factors for the low crime rate.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said Trump “openly distorted the facts and the reality of our border region to justify the unjustifiable: his absurd obsession of a border wall.”
“El Paso is safe due to its people, the good community relations with law enforcement, and the trust of all communities in our local institutions,” Garcia said in a statement Tuesday. “El Pasoans should be offended by the way the president used our community to advance his racist and xenophobic agenda.”
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) tweeted that “El Paso has been one of the safest cities in the nation long before the wall was built in 2008. #WallsDontWork.”
El Paso has never been considered one of the nation’s most dangerous cities, and its trends in violent crime mirror national swings before and after border barrier construction from 2006 to 2008, FBI data shows.
In 2005, the city had a murder rate of 2.5 for every 100,000 residents, compared with a national rate of 5.6.
By 2010, El Paso’s murder rate had dropped to 0.9 for every 100,000 residents, compared with a national average of 4.8.
After negotiators on Wednesday left a private briefing from federal border patrol and customs officials, No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said lawmakers were told the top priority was technology.
“They don’t rule out barriers, they don’t rule out fencing, but that isn’t the first priority,” Durbin told reporters.
But Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said the officials suggested a three-pronged approach using barriers, technology and personnel and said the closed-door session was constructive.
“The dialogue is good. The tone is good. We’re talking about substance. I would say we have a much better chance today than we had Monday to reach some kind of resolution,” Shelby said.
The Associated Press contributed to this Fox News report, which is used by permission.
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