By DAVID SIDERS
Beto O’Rourke, offering a meandering rebuttal to Donald Trump’s appeal for a border wall, walked throughout his El Paso, Texas, neighborhood late Tuesday night, lambasting the president for stoking “anxiety and paranoia” about immigration.
O’Rourke, a former border-district congressman who has catapulted into the top tier of the Democratic presidential primary field, has maintained a conspicuously low profile since leaving Congress.
But as he edges closer to a presidential campaign, O’Rourke filmed himself on Facebook Live for about 75 minutes, visiting friends’ homes and sharing scenic views of the El Paso and Juárez, Mexico, skylines.
“The president using fear and anecdote to try to instill an anxiety and paranoia to build the political will to construct this wall that would cost $30 billion and take private property and cause death and suffering as more asylum seekers are pushed to ever more hostile stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border — that was what we heard from the Oval Office,” O’Rourke said. “And we need to meet that fear with the truth, with our ambition, with the best traditions of this country, a country of immigrants, and with the example of El Paso and Juárez.”
O’Rourke has made immigration a central focus of his criticism of Trump, a message he would amplify in the 2020 Democratic primary if he chooses to run for president. Yet O’Rourke acknowledged the rhetorical acumen of the Republican president, whose administration has capitalized on high-profile crimes by undocumented immigrants to press its case for border wall funding.
“I think he has seized this emotional language very effectively, completely irresponsibly, not tethered to the truth,” O’Rourke said. “But if I don’t live in El Paso, if I haven’t had the experience that we’ve had, if I live in Michigan, Iowa, Oregon, the northern border, I don’t … I may not know any better, and ‘Shit, the president of the United States just said that there are rapists and criminals and murderers who will chop your head off coming to get us. Fuck yeah, build a wall.’ And so … I can see responding that way.”
O’Rourke said he was filming the Facebook Live video — and asking friends about their families’ immigration stories — in an effort to counter such rhetoric. He noted El Paso’s low crime rate and research indicating immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born populations.
Turning his camera to the skylines of El Paso and Juárez, O’Rourke — sporting a new beard — said, “It’s one of the most peaceful, one of the most beautiful communities on the planet.”