SALT LAKE CITY — Since he was elected, President Donald Trump has never really stopped campaigning, making raucous rallies a hallmark of his first two years in office.
And one thing that has come up at most rallies, before and after his election, has been border security; more specifically, a wall along the southern border.
On Wednesday, Trump announced the location of his first rally of 2019: El Paso. The topic? The wall.
"As the President continues his fight to secure the border, there's no better place to demonstrate that walls work than in El Paso," Michael Glassner, the chief operating officer of the Trump campaign, said in a statement.
During the State of the Union Tuesday, Trump used El Paso as an example of a city that became safer as a result of a border wall.
“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.”
"Simply put," he said, "walls work, and walls save lives."
While Trump appealed for bipartisan cooperation in his speech Tuesday night, he did not walk back his immigration agenda, renewing his call for a border wall and casting illegal immigration as a threat to Americans’ safety and economic prosperity, TheNew York Times reported.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has held up El Paso as an example of border wall success. During Trump’s visit to Texas in early January, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton shared a similar sentiment with the president.
"El Paso used to have one of the highest crime rates in America," Paxton said. "After that fence went up and separated Juarez, which still has an extremely high crime rate, the crime rates in El Paso now are some of the lowest in the country. So we know it works."
But is it true? Here's what we found.
Is there a border wall in El Paso?
Yes. Some form of barrier has existed between El Paso and neighboring Ciudad Juarez for more than a decade, the El Paso Times reported.
In his conversation with Trump, Paxton was referring to fencing constructed under the Secure Fence Act, signed into law in October 2006 by President George W. Bush.
The same month the law was signed, the El Paso Times ran a front-page story capturing the sentiment of ambivalence on the ground: "If you believe elected officials, business leaders and community activists, the proposed border fence to limit illegal immigration is either a cure-all or a calamity.”
Construction started on the fencing in the El Paso sector in 2008 and finished by mid-2009, the newspaper reported.
Did the border fence cut down on crime in El Paso?
No. In his speech, Trump claimed that El Paso had a high crime rate before the fence was built, and that after it was completed, the crime rate plummeted.
That did not happen.
“El Paso has never been considered one of the nation's most dangerous cities, and its trends in violent crime mirror national swings before and after border barrier construction from 2006 to 2008, FBI data shows,” Fox News reported.
Over the last 30 years the rate of violent crime in El Paso peaked in 1993, with more than 6,500 crimes. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes dropped by more than 34 percent, with fewer than 2,700 crimes reported, according to an analysis of FBI data by the El Paso Times.
Construction of the border fence, authorized by Bush in 2006, did not start until 2008. From 2006 to 2011 — from two years before the fence was built to two years after — the number of violent crimes in El Paso went up by 17 percent, the El Paso Times reported.
In 2008, before border barriers had been finished in El Paso, the city had the second-lowest violent crime rate among 20 cities of similar size, TheNew York Times reported. In 2010, after the fence went up, it held that place.
How are people reacting?
Some Texas officials have criticized Trump’s statements, citing other factors to explain the low crime rate in El Paso.
Richard D. Wiles, who was chief of the El Paso Police Department and then sheriff of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office from 2004 to today, was upset by the president’s remarks.
“It is sad to hear President Trump state falsehoods about El Paso, Texas in an attempt to justify the building of a 2,000-mile wall,” he stated. “The facts are clear ... El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built. President Trump continues to give a false narrative about a great city that truly represents what this great nation is all about.”
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, tweeted that "El Paso has been one of the safest cities in the nation long before the wall was built in 2008. #WallsDontWork."
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said Trump "openly distorted the facts and the reality of our border region to justify the unjustifiable: his absurd obsession of a border wall," Fox News reported.
"El Paso is safe due to its people, the good community relations with law enforcement, and the trust of all communities in our local institutions," Garcia said in a statement Tuesday. "El Pasoans should be offended by the way the president used our community to advance his racist and xenophobic agenda."
Others were more supportive of Trump's remarks.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the president is "absolutely right that Congress must pass his common sense border security bill and end this very real crisis at our southern border."
"In Texas, illegal immigration costs state taxpayers billions of dollars every year in health care, education and law enforcement costs," he said in a statement. "Texans see firsthand the tragedies that take place at our border every day. No one should have to die trying to come to America."64 comments on this story
Jon Barela, chief executive officer of the Borderplex Alliance, encouraged Trump to make a visit to El Paso.
“We would welcome the president to come to El Paso and see how our region is a model in how you conduct binational commerce, how you reduce crime rates and how you create border security through economic opportunity,” Barela said.
Trump will rally supporters Monday at the El Paso County Coliseum. Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, tweeted that the rally will be held "less than 1,000 feet from the successful border fence that keeps El Paso safe!"