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Trump Repeats False Crime Claims in El Paso

The president claims “walls work.” But the facts say otherwise.

  • Brennan Center for Justice
February 12, 2019

At a “Finish the Wall” rally in El Paso, Texas on Monday, Pres­id­ent Trump yet again repeated his refrain: “Walls work.” He has attemp­ted to build a case for a border wall around mostly false narrat­ives about crime and undoc­u­mented immig­rants.

There was concern that Trump would use some of that fear monger­ing as pretext to declare a national emer­gency if Congress didn’t provide fund­ing for a border barrier, though nego­ti­at­ors may be on track to defuse that threat after reach­ing a tent­at­ive fund­ing deal this week.

Still, Trump’s rhet­oric on crime and immig­ra­tion is far from the truth. As the Asso­ci­ated Press reports:

“You know where [a wall] made a differ­ence is right here in El Paso,” he said Monday, adding: “They’re full of crap when they claim it hasn’t made a big differ­ence.”

But that’s not true.

El Paso had a murder rate of less than half the national aver­age in 2005, a year before the most recent expan­sion of its border fence. That’s despite being just across the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city plagued by drug viol­ence. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows that El Paso’s annual number of repor­ted viol­ent crimes dropped from nearly 5,000 in 1995 to around 2,700 in 2016. But that corres­pon­ded with similar declines in viol­ent crime nation­wide and included peri­ods when the city’s crime rates increased year over year, despite new fencing and walls.

The Bren­nan Center’s ongo­ing research into crime data in the nation’s largest cities backs this up. Viol­ent crime in the coun­try’s major metro­pol­itan areas, includ­ing El Paso, has dropped precip­it­ously in the last quarter century.

(Image: Joe Raedle/Getty)