EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14) — President Donald Trump cited El Paso, Texas, in his State of the Union address, saying the city had extremely high rates of violent crime before a border wall was erected there.
He asserted that once a wall went up, El Paso became "one of the safest cities in our country."
"Simply put," he said, "walls work, and walls save lives."
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 to hear 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. The facts are clear. While it is true that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the nation, it has never been "...considered one of our Nation's most dangerous cities". And, 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.
Others also disputed that fences contributed to the low crime rate.
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."
"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 on Tuesday. "El Pasoans should be offended by the way the president used our community to advance his racist and xenophobic agenda."
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, tweeted Tuesday that "El Paso has been one of the safest cities in the nation long before the wall was built in 2008. #WallsDontWork."
The White House offered no immediate response to criticism of the president's comments about El Paso.
Trump plans to rally supporters on Monday at the El Paso County Coliseum. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted that the rally will be held "less than 1000 feet from the successful border fence that keeps El Paso safe!"
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.
In 2005, the city had a murder rate of 2.5 for every 100,000 residents, compared with a national rate of 5.6. By 2010, El Paso's murder rate had dropped to 0.9 for every 100,000 residents, compared with a national average of 4.8.