We in El Paso, Texas, are a community that transcends the border. While some are concerned about our proximity to Mexico, we choose to celebrate it. While others embrace building a wall, we remind them a fence already exists.
Our community has consistently been ranked as one of the safest in the U.S. Though President Donald Trump, in his recent State of the Union address, claimed the border fence is the reason for these accolades, it is not the full picture.
Our city police’s community-relations efforts and the cooperation between our law enforcement agencies contributed to making our city a safe place to live and work before border fencing was put in place. In fact, between 1996 and 2006, the number of reported violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent. Construction on the border fencing in El Paso did not start until 2008 and it was completed by mid-2009. The barrier between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, has appeared to act as a deterrent for non-violent crime, but it is our community’s investment in our public safety and the dedication of our law enforcement agencies that continue to keep us safe.
A bicultural, binational community
It remains my priority as the mayor of El Paso to ensure we protect our citizens and community. We are the sixth-largest city in Texas and the 20th-largest city in the United States. We are also the nexus of three states (New Mexico, Texas, and the Mexican state of Chihuahua), two countries and a region surpassing 2.5 million in population. We have a highly binational, bilingual, bicultural workforce and a population with a median age of 33.
From the El Paso Times: State of the Union: Facts show Trump wrong to say El Paso dangerous city until fence
As a binational region, we are 400 years old and our city surrounds a mountain, with a state park within our city limits. Today, we are a global metroplex seamlessly blending U.S. and Mexican traditions and cultures. Families live and work on both sides of the border and our sense of community is strong.
We are the 11th-largest U.S. land port and have multiple land bridges that accommodate 20,000 legal pedestrians coming north daily and nearly 25 million people who cross in an automobile or on foot annually. The cross-border commerce between our states is as important as the cross-border community.
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Contrary to what you may hear or perceive, our city’s relationship with Mexico has ushered in an era of economic growth and regional participation. Today, dozens of Fortune 500 companies reside in Juarez, the Mexican city on the other side of our border fence, for manufacturing assembly. The maquiladora program, in which companies from foreign companies like the United States operate factories in Mexico, has been a great benefit to El Paso. U.S. raw materials are sent to Mexico for manufacturing assembly and returned to the US. Duties are paid on the labor value added.
Instead of looking to vilify our community, I implore policy advisers from the federal government to visit El Paso. Talk with our residents, eat at our restaurants, walk our streets — our city offers a truly safe and international experience. When President Trump visits our city on Monday, he will see for himself.
Dee Margo is the mayor El Paso, Texas. Follow him on Twitter at @mayor_margo.