This week, Arizona 360 embarked on a journey to continue our coverage of border-related issues. We traveled across state lines to trace the international border through New Mexico and to El Paso, Texas where President Trump held a campaign rally Monday. Our travels took us to the rally, and to communities along the way, where we sought to understand if rhetoric about border security reflects a crisis at the U.S. southern border.
President Trump's comments about El Paso in his State of the Union address thrust the city into the national spotlight and led many to dispute his claim that a border wall caused violent crime to drop while defending El Paso's relationship with Mexico. Richard Pineda echoed that sentiment when he spoke to Lorraine Rivera at the University of Texas at El Paso. Pineda is an expert in political communications and director of the university's Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies.
"I think it's really troublesome when you've got somebody that comes from outside … and says: 'You were dangerous. There were these different situations that existed, but then border control policy was the difference in terms of coexisting,'" Pineda said. "That's simply not true. I think when you look at a community like El Paso, our history suggests that not only have we had a really strong relationship with our neighbor to the south, but so much in terms of pivotal moments in U.S.-Mexican history happened here in El Paso."
He also described how the president's event in the city fits into the overall debate about border security.
"It's funded by the Trump 2020 campaign. It's used as a kickoff to a certain extent for his campaign. I think it's less about policy and more about reasserting this message that the wall is part of the president's agenda."