EL PASO, Texas, Feb. 12 (UPI) — To packed bleachers and raucous applause at an event center just yards across the border from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, President Donald Trump delivered a stump speech and called again for his border wall at his first 2020 reelection rally of the year.
Banners with a new campaign slogan, “Finish the Wall” and the U.S. flag hung above Trump as he took the stage.
Shouts of “USA, USA, USA” greeted the president as he took the stage. He told the crowd, “I don’t know if you heard, but today we began the beautiful wall.”
The president led the crowd through a re-election stump speech, lambasting Democrats in Congress whom he calls the “radical left.”
The crowd chanted “Finish the Wall” whenever the president talked about illegal immigration. The Trump-Pence campaign released a new campaign video before the president left for El Paso demanding the wall’s completion. About 650 miles of border barriers have been built since 2006, but the remaining 1,200 miles need to be finished, the president has said, and much of it is in Texas.
Trump billed his visit as a re-election rally, but Congress is in the final days of negotiating a budget and a deadline is looming for Congress to fund the border wall, among other border security measures. Trump has again threatened partially to shutter the government if Congress does not fund his border security plans.
“I will never abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” the president said, also saying he would not reduce bed space in immigration detention.
Last week he decided to bring his campaign to El Paso to showcase the city’s 57-mile border wall, completed in 2008, and which, he says, reduced crime in the city.
“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 at last week’s State of the Union address. “Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”
“Am I right?” the president asked the El Paso crowd who cheered wildly in approval.
“Safety is the birthright of every American. We must finish the wall,” Trump said, leading the crowd through a litany of ills he associates with an open border: human trafficking, drugs and illegal immigration.
Since President Trump announced the El Paso rally last week, controversy and outrage have stalked the State of the Union remarks he has made, linking the city’s low crime rate to border wall construction
Trump has repeatedly made the false claim that El Paso’s crime rate dropped and the city became safer since the wall was built in 2008. At one point in January the President confused El Paso with San Antonio, a city hundreds of miles from the border.
El Paso community leaders denounced the wall and Trump’s immigration policies. Newly-elected Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, D-Texas demanded an apology from Trump about his ‘distortion’ about the city.
“I urge you to treat this visit as your opportunity not only to correct the record and ensure that the misinformation you stated on the national stage is retracted, but also an opportunity to apologize to El Pasoans for the disparagement of our community,” Escobar said.
Academics say the president’s assertion about the crime rate is wrong: El Paso, which for years has been one of the safer cities in the United States, actually saw violent crime rise just as U.S. Customs and Border Protection contractors built the city’s border wall between 2006 and 2008. Other factors, like jobs, housing, amenities, and social integration help explain low crime rates.
Joining President Trump in El Paso were his son, Donald Trump, Jr. and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Republicans. Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, R-Texas also joined the President.
The rally comes at a sensitive moment for border security in the Rio Grande valley. Texas has amassed 500 state troopers on the border at Eagle Pass, Texas to deter 2,000 migrants sheltered in Piedras Negras, Mexico and who are attempting to apply for political asylum.
President Trump has also deployed 300 U.S. troops to support Texas’ state troopers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.