Trump Mexico wall talk before Texas visit prompts Rep. Veronica Escobar's first floor speech
U.S. Rep. elect Veronica Escobar talks to protesters during Dec. 15 protest. Rudy Gutierrez, El Paso Times
AUSTIN — In her first speech from the floor of the U.S. House, Rep. Veronica Escobar doubled down on her opposition to the construction of a border wall and praised her hometown of El Paso, a "resilient, beautiful community along the U.S.-Mexico border."
She delivered her remarks as President Donald Trump departed for a trip to the border in McAllen, Texas, a visit intended to draw attention to what Trump has described as a crisis on the border and demonstrate the need for a border wall.
Escobar challenged Trump's depiction of the border and said the community she knows is one of the safest in the world.
“I have been profoundly disturbed by the rhetoric and policies from this administration,” Escobar said. "I will use my time to tell you the truth about the border, the opportunity she represents and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Trump angered Escobar and other El Paso leaders during his address to the American public on Tuesday when he again stressed the need for a wall. He said that violence and drug trafficking are prevalent along the nation's southern border and that illegal migration hurts the nation's economy.
Escobar said that couldn't be further from the truth and pointed to the relationship between El Paso and Juárez, Mexico, as evidence.
“This border unites our families and our values and it promotes commerce and trade," she said. "The border has never been safer or more secure. El Paso already has the wall, but we were safe long before it was constructed."
Proponents of the wall — including White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — have pointed to the fence that has stood in El Paso since 2010 as evidence that a wall works.
But leaders in El Paso have long rejected this claim and argue that the city has always been safe, thanks to the community and law enforcement efforts — not the fence.
"The truth is that additional border barriers will not address the real challenges that we face," Escobar said. "Instead, I hope to work with my colleagues in this Congress to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, address the root causes of migration, and value immigrants as critical to building our economy and our country.”
Escobar criticized immigration proposals that the president has promoted in the past, including the "zero tolerance" policy that led to thousands of children being separated from their parents at the border.
"These policies and practices are inhumane and un-American," she said. "Building walls and sowing hate will not solve complex issues, they will only further divide us as a nation."
She ended her remarks with a simple request of her new congressional colleagues.
"For any of my colleagues who think that the border is unsafe, I invite you to my district to see it yourself," Escobar said. "Thank you."
Madlin Mekelburg is a reporter with the USA Today Network Austin Bureau; she may be reached at 512-479-6606; firstname.lastname@example.org; @madlinbmek on Twitter.