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Donald Trump lied in his speech on Tuesday. He lied about immigrants. He lied about his border wall. And he lied about my hometown of El Paso, Texas.

El Paso was one of the safest cities in the U.S. long before the border wall was built. That it was and is a remarkably safe community is a testament to the people of El Paso and the trust they have built with law enforcement. El Pasoans are offended by the way the President used our community to advance his racist and xenophobic agenda.

Trump openly distorted the facts and reality of our border region to justify his absurd obsession of a border wall. He told these lies to scare people, to anger them, to stir them into hating newcomers, taking in America’s welcome mat, and closing the door to the land of opportunity we have always offered the world. All of this, as I, and many others in this community have said so many times before, is morally wrong, deeply inhumane, and fundamentally un-American.

Fernando Garcia (far right) and other members of the Border Network for Human Rights participated in a caravan tour to the Rio Grande Valley in April, 2018. They are pictured at the headquarters of La Unión del Pueblo Entero in San Juan.

That the President lied, at this point, is not surprising. But even if his hate and his disconnect from reality no longer shock us, it should still appall us.

Donald Trump does not care about the safety of Americans, on the border or in the interior.

I know that, because I, alongside my fellow El Pasoans–ordinary Americans and law enforcement leaders, unauthorized immigrants and academic experts–worked long and hard, successfully, to build a community that is actually safe. El Paso, while not perfect, is a place where people feel more safe, more at ease than almost anywhere else in this country.  And we did not do that through walls. We did not do that by criminalizing and persecuting immigrants.

We made El Paso safe by building relationships of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. We made El Paso safe by including everyone in the community. We made El Paso safe by recognizing where real threats and challenges are and investing in solutions tailored to target and address those issues. We worked to make law enforcement transparent, accountable, and engaged with the community it serves. This, not a wall, is the example El Paso has to offer America.

Asylum seekers are not a public safety issue. Grandparents seeking to visit their family are not a public safety issue. Shoppers coming from Mexico to patronize American businesses are not a public safety issue. Students coming to the U.S. to study and offer us their talents are not a public safety issue. Hard working men and women coming here to seek the American dream are not a public safety issue. These people, all of them, make El Paso a more vibrant, dynamic, vital place–a New Ellis Island–a place that can and should be the future of our society. This, not the demonization and criminalization of immigrants, is the lesson El Paso has to offer America.

What Donald Trump is offering America would destroy all of this.

Trump’s talk of ‘security’ is a canard. He would erode trust between the community and law enforcement. He would deprioritize real challenges, while pouring resources into fantasies and fever dreams, undermining rights and abusing communities. He would turn our backs on those around the world who believe in the values and promise of America. I will not let this happen in El Paso. We cannot let this happen in America.

We must not ignore, or forget, that what Donald Trump has actually managed to accomplish on the border is not his wall, but making America less safe, less grounded in a respect for life or morality.

Trump embraced policies that tore children from their parents–scarring them for life.  Trump has stood by practices that have driven migrants into dangerous places deep in the Southwestern deserts, then held them for prolonged periods in grotesque, overcrowded conditions with inadequate food, water, and medical care–killing two children in the process. Trump mired DACA holders in uncertainty, weakening our economy. Trump has taken money from FEMA and the Coast Guard–agencies dedicated to keeping Americans safe–in order to spend those resources holding immigrant families in detention.

Donald Trump has ignored real problems, failed to invest in real needs, and taken core functions of our government hostage–repeatedly–to engage in political theatre for his base; theatre that offers America nothing but fear, hate, racism, and death.

Anyone who would echo Donald Trump’s lies needs to take a long, hard look at themselves.  Anyone who would back his agenda must ask themselves if they have a heart.

All of us, as Americans, need to take this as a moment to reflect, within ourselves, about what our values are, what our priorities are.

Do we believe in criminalizing mothers and children seeking asylum? Do we believe in killing migrants by driving them into the desert? Do we disdain the humanity of those who seek the American Dream?

Do we still believe in the Statue of Liberty and the words it offers, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door?”

Donald Trump cannot answer this question for us. Instead, whether we allow he and his stooges to continue their racist lies and attacks on immigrants and border communities will show the answer.

I know that we in El Paso, despite the President’s lies and hate, will continue to uplift a border that is a place of welcoming, inclusion, and a deep humanity–a place that will never accept his wall. I hope–this is an earnest and urgent plea–that Americans still have the moral courage to join us and stand for the values that were a beacon to our ancestors, and which can guide us to a brighter tomorrow.

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