In El Paso, Hundreds Of Protesters Denounce Trump's Border Wall Plans
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Here in Washington, the president and Congress will be negotiating to avoid another shutdown over a wall at the southern border. Well, down at the border in El Paso yesterday, hundreds of residents took to the streets to protest more physical barriers along the edge of that city. Monica Ortiz Uribe reports.
(SOUNDBITE OF CONCH TUNE)
MONICA ORTIZ URIBE, BYLINE: An Aztec dancer in a feathered headdress blew into a coral-colored conch. Families waving American flags marched behind him, some wearing T-shirts that said, resist the wall. They marched with their dogs and toddlers chanting in both Spanish and English.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Hey, hey, ho, ho. The border wall has got to go.
ORTIZ URIBE: Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, the freshman Democrat who represents El Paso, kicked off the protest by shouting into a bullhorn.
VERONICA ESCOBAR: And I am going to fight every single day for compassionate, humane and just immigration reform. And I...
ORTIZ URIBE: Escobar denounces the Trump administration's immigration policy for using, quote, "cruelty as a means of deterrence." And she's among the House majority who won't support more funding for a wall. Lawmakers in the House will likely have to compromise with the Senate, whose majority tends to side with the president. That worries Joe Heyman, a professor of border studies at the local university.
JOE HEYMAN: I'm a little concerned that what we're going to get is, you know, more Border Patrol officers, which is, you know, an agency that's already overstaffed and unaccountable, and more beds for ICE.
ORTIZ URIBE: ICE is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the interior immigration force. The Trump administration favors opening more detention space and extending stays for immigrants beyond what's now legally permissible. Among the weekend protesters were 53 members of a Seventh-day Adventist church in Dallas. Their pastor is Jaime Kowlessar.
JAIME KOWLESSAR: Jesus was a migrant. You know, the Bible talks about - he had to flee to Egypt because of danger. So how can we profess to love Jesus and what he stands for, but we show hatred towards those that are running from the same thing? So this is our faith in action.
ORTIZ URIBE: A record number of Central American families are showing up at the southern border, many fleeing violence and extreme poverty. The Dallas congregation spent the evening sorting clothes at a local migrant shelter in El Paso and meeting with the families housed there.
KOWLESSAR: We actually had a waiting list of some people who wanted to come. And so we are going to plan another trip.
ORTIZ URIBE: The protest ended in El Paso's Chihuahuita neighborhood. From here, Mexico is just a quick sprint across the dry bed of the Rio Grande. An 18-foot steel fence has stood behind single-story adobe homes here for about a decade. Some residents say it's helped reduce crime and illegal crossings. Others, like Mariana Barlea, say they barely notice a difference.
MARIANA BARLEA: (Speaking Spanish).
ORTIZ URIBE: "People still keep crossing over," she says with a laugh. Sometimes, the Border Patrol catches them. Sometimes, they don't. For NPR News, I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe in El Paso.
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