POTUS Donald Trump opened his 2020 campaign with a rally near the border in El Paso, Texas, Monday evening, blasting Democrats for failing to support reasonable security measures including providing funding for new walls, fences, and other barriers.
In particular, the president took aim at Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, who represents El Paso in Congress and who lost a bid to unseat GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in last year’s midterms.
Calling O’Rourke a “young man” who has “very little going for himself except he has a great first name,” POTUS said, adding that he “suffered a great defeat” at the hands of incumbent Cruz, the latter of whom was the president’s most serious competitor for the White House in 2016.
Crowd size estimates for the president’s rally, according to The New York Post, totaled about 35,000 in total compared to 10,000 - 15,000 for a counter-rally held by O’Rourke.
Local leaders also disputed the president’s claims that crime in the city dropped significantly after a border wall was constructed around 2008, making it one of the “safest cities in our country,” he said.
They say that crime had leveled out around 2006, two years before the wall was built.
That said, the president’s daughter-in-law and lead 2020 reelection campaign official, Lara Trump, told Fox News Monday ahead of the rally that local residents say the wall has definitely helped.
El Paso residents “feel incredibly safe,” Lara Trump said, noting that El Paso is located directly adjacent to Juarez, Mexico, which is a high-crime city.
American citizens “feel so safe just having the wall there,” she added. “Walls work, and I think you’re going to hear that from the president.”
“The wall has not saved lives. It has ended lives,” O’Rourke, a potential 2020 Democratic candidate, said Monday, adding that because of the wall, migrants have had to resort to crossing in remote, dangerous terrain — though he never addressed the irony of his statement, that they were still crossing into the U.S. illegally.
The president refuted O’Rourke’s claim and those of local officials. “They are full of crap when they say it hasn’t made a big difference,” Trump said.
The president’s rally came as lawmakers emerged from border security talks with a potential deal that would provide $1.375 billion for new border barriers, or just 55 miles of bollard fencing — well below the president’s requeste $5.7 billion, which is also a small amount given the enormity of the federal budget.
But it also calls “for reducing the number of ICE detention beds from 49,057 to 40,520 by the end the Sept. 30 fiscal year,” the Post reported.
Democrats say they want reduce the number of illegal immigrants ICE can detain so the agency can focus on more dangerous criminals, but the president isn’t buying that excuse. He told the crown in El Paso that strategy amounts to “cutting loose dangerous criminals into our country.”
“Let me state very clearly to those pushing this ridiculous and radical agenda: I will never sign a bill that forces the mass release of violent criminals into our country,” he said.
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