Reactions Mixed To President Trump's Border Emergency Declaration

By Michel Marizco, Jorge Valencia, Kendal Blust, Murphy Woodhouse
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2019 - 9:32pm
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 - 8:40am

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concertina wire on the border fence in Nogales, Arizona
Kendal Blust/KJZZ
Warning signs and coils of concertina wire have been added to the border fence in recent months and weeks in Nogales, Arizona.

A national emergency declaration could include funding for the remaining 180 miles of border fencing requested by Homeland Security that Congress didn’t include in Thursday’s spending package.

In southern Arizona, Pima County Sheriff Republican Mark Napier supports the president’s plan and said a declaration would likely be halted in court. Which for him, means slowing a needed border security project.

"No one section of the border is entirely like the next," Napier said. "There are places where we could probably benefit from additional barrier in Pima County. There’s certainly places where we need more technology."

Neighboring Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, a Democrat, disagrees.

"It’s a crisis created by our president. We don’t see that happening down here. What I see is we have a challenge with immigration, yeah but we also have challenges domestic and foreign that are more demanding and more of a crisis."

In Nogales, Ariz., Mayor Arturo Garino agrees that there’s nothing happening in the border region that constitutes a national emergency.

“No there isn’t. No there isn’t," Garino said. "I’m sorry. And the only crisis we have here is the concertina wire.”

The city of Nogales has been fighting back against rows of concertina wire that the U.S. military has been stringing up on the border fence in Nogales at the request of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Garino says it makes him think border walls must not be very effective in the first place.

"So are they going to be building more walls somewhere else and then just continue wrapping the north side of the United States on the wall with concertina wire the length of the Mexican border? I don’t know.”

Mayor Robert Uribe in nearby Douglas, Ariz., says he’s also fed up with the single-minded focus on border barriers.

“The focus on borders are typically on immigration, illegal crossing, it’s not about economic development. While the majority of the people here are so hopeful that eventually we’ll have economic prosperity in Douglas instead of the same conversation about immigration.”

"The border has a complex issue since the 19th century, but nothing like a crisis."
— Lorenzo Meyer, political science professor

He says there are ways to make the border more secure and help his community thrive, like investing in improvements to ports of entry. But that’s not what the conversation is about in Washington, D.C.

Across the border, Agua Prieta is a city of roughly 80,000 people in the northern Mexican state of Sonora.

Its mayor, Jesus Alfonso Montaño Durazo, prides himself on the strong binational links his city has with Douglas. He also doesn’t think “emergency” describes the situation there.

“This is one of the calmest parts of the border,” he said in Spanish. “We don’t have violence, the crime rate is very low. And perceptions are probably different, especially among people that come from the United States, but when they’re here, they realize that that perception is wrong, and that peace prevails here.”

He also points out that migration has been on the decline there and elsewhere along the border. That’s a trend he thinks will continue thanks to border policies enacted by Mexico’s new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The lower taxes and higher wages could convince more would-be Mexican migrants to stay, he says.

"Then the wall would be like a white elephant,” he said in Spanish. “Because it wouldn’t have any reason for being.”

In Mexico City, the prospect of the U.S. completing a border wall has been getting lots of attention. But AMLO has portrayed the wall as an internal U.S. issue that is none of Mexico’s business. Lorenzo Meyer is a political science professor at the Colegio de Mexico.

"The Mexican government right now has so many problems, so many internal problems, that they don't like to have another one, to add another problem," Meyer said.

To be sure, there have been issues surrounding the border for decades. But Meyer says that from Mexico City, right now doesn’t look like an emergency.

"The border has a complex issue since the 19th century, but nothing like a crisis," he said.

So as Mexico deals with a national gas crisis and continuing violence from the drug war, Meyer says it’s unlikely officials here will take any dramatic action regarding the wall.

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