Beto O’Rourke would ‘take the wall down’ between El Paso and Mexico

Possible 2020 candidate says political leaders are projecting ‘fear and anxiety’ that hurts residents along the border

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, said that if it were up to him, he would tear down the border fence separating his hometown of El Paso, Texas, from Mexico. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, said that if it were up to him, he would tear down the border fence separating his hometown of El Paso, Texas, from Mexico. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 15, 2019 at 11:03am

Potential 2020 presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke said Thursday that if it were up to him, the border barrier separating his old El Paso, Texas, district from Mexico would come down.

“Yes, absolutely. I’d take the wall down,” the Texas Democrats said in an interview on MSNBC, on the American side of the border wall with a view into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

In his State of the Union speech, President Donald Trump touted the border barrier in El Paso for making the city safer. “Walls work,” the president claimed, invoking El Paso, though he did not cite any statistics to support his theory that the barrier in El Paso had an impact on crime rates.

Crime rates in El Paso since 1985 have been well below the national average for large American cities, FBI statistics show. The violent crime rate in the Texas border city has been steadily decreasing since the early 1990s, with no discernible difference in the rate dropping since the 57-mile border fence went up in 2008. In fact, violent crime slightly increased between 2007 and 2010 but has mostly been on the decline since, statistics show.

Watch: Trump and Beto O’Rourke strike contrasting messages in dueling Texas rallies

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O’Rourke said that crossings at the southern border with Mexico become a hot political issue for the wrong reasons when people feel national and homeland security threats. Since the 9/11 attacks, politicians have fanned those fears with measures to turbocharge border security, O’Rourke suggested.

“We do this, whether it is the war on terror, the war on drugs — we project our fears and anxieties to places like El Paso, to the U.S.-Mexico border, and punish the people who live here,” O’Rourke said. “There’s no reason to do that. But it is the fear and the anxiety that is stoked by people who should and frankly do know better that results in these policies,” he said.

O’Rourke has not announced whether he will run for the Democratic nomination in 2020. He lost his challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterms by 3 points.