The national spotlight was on El Paso Monday. President Trump held his first campaign rally of the year, filling the El Paso County Coliseum. At the same time, thousands of border residents held their own counter-rally, right across the street.
Before Trump even touched down in El Paso, local leaders were busy offering a counter-narrative to the president’s. Annunciation House, a shelter for migrants and refugees held a morning press conference, where asylum seekers shared their stories.
Ruben Garcia is director of Annunciation House.
“President Trump himself, I really don’t have a lot of hope,” Garcia said. “I think he’s got his agenda and he’s gonna stick to his agenda. I think what his visit is doing is it’s galvanizing many people in El Paso to use their voices, to say you cannot speak about El Paso this way.”
In his State of the Union speech last week, President Trump incorrectly described El Paso as one of the nation’s most violent cities until a border wall was built. Outrage ensued. Many El Pasoans – including the mayor – pushed back against that narrative.
But that didn’t stop long lines of supporters from coming out to see Trump. They waited outside the coliseum, in a fierce wind. Pop-up vendors hawked red MAGA hats and Deplorable Lives Matter buttons.
El Pasoan Rose Griffiths brought her family, despite her own mixed feelings.
“To be very honest I have so many things that I love about him and so many things that I’m not too sure about,” she said.
Griffiths said she’s for building a wall. More than that, she wanted her kids to experience politics up close – including her teenage son, Evan Robinson.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Robinson said. “You know, presidents don’t really come to El Paso, never see how things really are and it’s just a really cool experience.”
Recent transplant Daniel Dennis met El Paso native Nicholas Reyes in line; they became fast friends. Reyes was drawn to Dennis’ t-shirt, which sported a crude joke about Beto O’Rourke.
“He seems like a really cool person,” Reyes said, showing off the hat Dennis gave him; a Trump 2020 cap, with an American flag on the brim.
Dennis is a big Trump fan. But when it comes to the wall, “I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I mean that’s a lot of work, that’s a lot of money, that’s a lot of time. We already have the border. I think we just up the border security.”
Twenty-one-year-old Randall Buschberg said he’s one hundred percent behind all of Trump’s policies, and couldn’t believe the president was coming to his hometown.
“I was like no way,” Buschberg said. I thought the closest he’d come was maybe Tucson or Phoenix and I found out I said ‘I gotta go.’”