President Donald Trump to visit El Paso after State of the Union address
A look at a few of the claims The Associated Press fact-checked in President Trump's State of the Union address. (Feb. 6) AP
President Donald Trump's campaign said Wednesday that he plans to have a rally in El Paso next week to expand on his State of the Union claim that border fencing made the city a safe place.
The rally is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the El Paso County Coliseum, according to the campaign. It will be his seventh rally in Texas and his first in El Paso, a city that has often battled the president's characterizations of the border.
“As the President continues his fight to secure our border, there’s no better place to demonstrate that walls work than in El Paso," said Michael Glassner, chief operating officer of Trump's campaign, in a statement. "President Trump looks forward to visiting with the patriots of Texas who are on the front lines of the struggle against open border Democrats who allow drugs, crime, and sex trafficking all along our border every day."
Trump on Tuesday claimed that El Paso used to be considered a dangerous city and it only became safe after a fence was constructed.
“The border city of El Paso, Texas used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our Nation's most dangerous cities," Trump said. "Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country.”
A fact check by the El Paso Times shows that the crime rate in El Paso decreased before the fencing was constructed.
The response from El Paso leaders was swift and bipartisan.
Mayor Dee Margo, a Republican, tweeted that "El Paso was NEVER one of the MOST dangerous cities in the US."
On Wednesday, Margo cast Trump's visit as positive for the city.
"I’ve been saying for months that I want to talk about the border and now he’s coming to El Paso," Margo told the El Paso Times. "I hope he’ll allow me the chance to visit with him."
Jon Barela, chief executive officer of the Borderplex Alliance, said he also sees the rally as a chance for the president to better understand El Paso.
"This is an opportunity for him to see first hand that we are one of the safest cities in the U.S., thriving, and a model for how you create opportunity, jobs and hope on both sides of the border," Barela, a Republican, said in a statement.
State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, disagreed and said Trump's visit to El Paso will only continue to allow for more misrepresentations of the border.
“We know that he is not coming here to learn about realities, as far as I know,” Rodríguez said. “He hasn’t reached out to any aid workers, lawyers or local officials or anyone involved with meetings with migrants. He’s only engaged in a campaign thing.
“He’s going to come to campaign, make his comments that this is a dangerous border that needs further militarization. We reject that in El Paso. We reject that all across the border. It’s based on a lie."
State Rep. César Blanco, a Democrat who represents El Paso, called the rally "a slap in the face to our community."
"His fear mongering and lies have hurt our border economy and community — one of the safest cities in America, even before the wall," he said in a statement. "He lied in his national address from the oval office, he lied on his visit to McAllen, and he lied in the State of the Union. We should not be rolling out the red carpet, so he can come lie in our backyard.
"There are so many positive things he can learn about on his trip to El Paso, but who are we kidding. We need leaders that want to actually promote El Paso for the asset it is, not slander it."
Trump's last campaign event in Texas was during the midterm elections, when he spoke at a rally for Sen. Ted Cruz, who was facing a tough re-election fight against Democrat Beto O'Rourke of El Paso.
O'Rourke is now considering a presidential run and said on Tuesday that he would make his decision by the end of the month.
Steve Ortega, a close friend of O'Rourke who served with him on El Paso's City Council, said he doesn't know whether the Democrat will run for president in 2020 but he hopes whoever challenges Trump has a real understanding of the border.
"Whoever is going to vie for the Democratic nomination needs to have a very compelling border narrative and there is no better place to start than El Paso," he said.
Ortega said he sees Trump's visit to the city as "a great opportunity for El Paso to correct the record."
"To me, it's clear that Trump's team did not do their homework on our story as a community," he said.
This story has been updated to include additional comments and it will continue to be updated.
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.