President Trump will hold his first campaign rally of the year Monday at the El Paso County Coliseum, a Texas arena within a stone’s throw of the U.S.-Mexico border.
It won’t be the only high-profile event in El Paso that night.
Former Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke will appear at the March for Truth — at a high school a mile away from the coliseum — in the hopes of countering Trump’s hard-line message on immigration.
“The President is coming to El Paso Monday. He will promise a wall and will repeat his lies about the dangers that immigrants pose,” O’Rourke wrote Friday on Medium, an online publishing platform that has seen a flurry of activity this week.
O’Rourke, who has publicly mulled entering the 2020 presidential race, announced late Friday he would join El Paso residents in a “peaceful march” on Monday. Though he avoided calling out Trump by name, it was obvious the protest was intended to coincide with Trump’s Make America Great Again rally in El Paso on the same night.
“We will meet lies and hate with the truth and a vision for the future from the U.S.-Mexico border,” O’Rourke said Saturday, in a video message alongside his daughter, Molly. “Everyone is welcome.”
March for Truth is being sponsored by several nonprofit groups — including Border Network for Human Rights and Women’s March El Paso — as well as more than 60 local musicians, organizers said. Protesters are encouraged to wear white. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.), who won O’Rourke’s former congressional seat, will also speak at the event.
“Trump’s fixation on a border wall and his distortions of life in El Paso and along the border are unacceptable,” march organizers wrote on a Facebook page for the event. “Our communities will always stand to include immigrants, oppose racism, and defend the truth. All of us must make a choice about whether we stand up for the truth or allow Trump to degrade our dignity and rights.”
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump touted El Paso as proof that border walls result in lower crime rates. Data indicates this is false, as The Washington Post’s Robert Moore, Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson reported:
For the past 20 years, a number of published ratings have listed El Paso as one of the nation’s safest cities, and FBI statistics show that, like most major U.S. cities, El Paso’s crime rate has been dropping since the mid-1990s.
The city’s rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded, and that number fell by more than 34 percent over the next 13 years, according to an analysis of crime data by the El Paso Times. From two years before the fencing was built, in 2006, to two years after, in 2011, the violent crime rate increased by 17 percent, the newspaper reported.
By contrast, Ciudad Juárez, El Paso’s Mexican sister city just across the border, has at times been one of the deadliest cities in the world and saw an increase in crime last year. There were 543 murders in Juárez in 2016, 773 in 2017 and more than 1,100 last year, according to a tally kept by local media.
There is no dispute that the border fencing has cut down the number of illegal border crossings into El Paso, but local leaders said it is false to suggest the barrier had an impact on violent crime.
In his lengthy Medium post, O’Rourke slammed Trump’s “racist, inflammatory rhetoric” and laid out why he thought U.S. policy had exacerbated immigration-related challenges.
“The President, using the same racist, inflammatory rhetoric of years past, seeks to build a wall, to take kids from their parents, to deploy the United States Army on American soil, to continue mass deportations and to end the protection for Dreamers,” O’Rourke wrote. “In other words, he seeks in one administration to repeat all the mistakes of the last half-century. And with past as prologue, we know exactly how that will end.”
O’Rourke, who in November narrowly lost a race against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) for a U.S. Senate seat, has said he is conflicted about whether to join an already crowded field of Democratic candidates to run for president. In an interview Tuesday with talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, O’Rourke said he would make a decision by the end of the month.