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El Paso mayor says Trump is 'wrong' to connect city's crime drop and border barrier

Updated 12:48 PM ET, Mon February 11, 2019

Washington (CNN) - El Paso, Texas, Mayor Dee Margo said hours before President Donald Trump is due to visit his city that Trump was wrong to claim a border barrier was responsible for El Paso's drop in crime.

Trump made the claim last week in his State of the Union Address when he said El Paso "used to have extremely high rates of violent crime -- one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities."

"Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities," Trump said.

CNN noted at the time that the connection was inaccurate, and Margo, a Republican, told CNN's Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto on "Newsroom" Monday that the drop in crime came prior to the barrier construction, and that Trump was "wrong" when he claimed otherwise.

El Paso is a Texas border city adjacent to Mexico's Ciudad Juarez. Margo said while Trump was right to call El Paso safe, he was wrong to attribute its drop in crime to the construction of a barrier along the border -- a remark he said Trump had echoed from Texas GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton.

"If people had contacted me about our attorney general's remarks, I would have corrected it at that time," Margo said.

Margo said El Paso was safe "going back to 2005," before the construction of border fencing.

"The barrier went up, and the fence went up, and it's only about ten miles long," Margo said. "And the total fencing in the El Paso sector is about 78 miles. And it's not continuous. Now it's part of the process for border security, but it's not the total panacea."

In a tweet responding to the speech, Margo said the fencing had "impacted illegal immigration and curbed criminal activity" but was not the "sole deterrent."

The El Paso Times, responding to Paxton's claim last month, noted that violent crime in El Paso peaked in 1993 and dropped 34% between that year and 2006. Construction on the border fencing began in 2008 and ended in 2009, as CNN noted after Trump's claim.

Margo said Monday he was "pleased" Trump was coming to El Paso for a rally and that he hoped to speak with him.

"Hopefully we'll get a chance to visit and talk about and see firsthand what the border really looks like and how we are so closely intertwined, for almost 400 years, between El Paso and Juarez," Margo said.


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