President Donald Trump re-emphasized the need for border security at a rally Monday night, saying his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is necessary for Americans’ safety because “walls save lives.”
Using his backdrop of El Paso, Texas, as his example, Trump argued that a wall along the southwestern border is critical to national security.
“You know where it did make a big difference? Right here in El Paso,” he told thousands of supporters. “And I’ve been watching where they’re trying to say, ‘Oh, the wall didn’t make that much …’ Well, you take a look at what they did with their past crimes and how they made them from very serious to much lesser ― you take a look at what the real system is.”
Trump falsely claimed in last week’s State of the Union address that El Paso was one of the country’s “most dangerous cities” until it erected border fencing between it and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Local and state officials blasted the president for lying about the city’s reputation, saying the decline in crime began before any type of barrier was built.
The speech came just hours after reports that Congress had reached a deal to avoid another government shutdown. The Associated Press, citing three people familiar with the tentative border security deal, reported “that the accord would provide $1.375 billion to build 55 miles of new border barriers.”
Trump previously called for $5.7 billion in border wall funding. He told the rally crowd Monday night that he chose to come out and speak instead of staying backstage to hear more details about the deal.
“I chose you,” Trump said. “So we probably have some good news, but who knows?”
The president told his supporters that work had already begun on the wall.
“Today we started a big beautiful wall right on the Rio Grande,” he told thousands of supporters. “Walls save lives.”
Hours earlier, Trump released a campaign video called “El Paso Residents: Finish the Wall, It Kept Us Safe.” The video references the border barrier in the majority-Latino city.
The president’s speech ― which he made in front of a “Finish the wall” banner ― offered a stark contrast to the anti-Trump march a few miles away, headlined by El Paso native Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic congressman.
O’Rourke, who is considered a potential 2020 presidential candidate, stressed at his counter-rally that anti-immigration policies and border walls are dangerous and divisive.
“Walls end lives,” he said.
Trump mocked O’Rourke and the size of the protest crowd.
“He challenged us,” Trump said. “That may be the end of his presidential bid.”
Trump also touched on several topics that he covered in last week’s State of the Union address, including North Korea, job security and the military. He also returned to his rhetoric bashing the media, accusing Hillary Clinton, Democrats and news outlets of “collusion” while denying any collusion in his own administration.
Christopher Mathias contributed to this report.