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El Paso Mayor On National Guard Mexican Border Deployments


President Trump signed a proclamation last night directing National Guard troops to deploy to the U.S.-Mexico border. This is Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaking to reporters at the White House.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN: Border security is homeland security, which is national security. It's not a partisan issue. It's not something we can separate out. It's core to being a sovereign nation.

GREENE: Now, we should say, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both deployed the National Guard to the southern border at times during their presidencies. As for Trump's decision, we got reaction a bit earlier this morning from Dee Margo. He is the Republican mayor of El Paso, Texas. He began by describing how intertwined his border city is with Mexico.

DEE MARGO: El Paso is one region of three states and two countries and a population of 2.7 million. But we've been involved with Mexico for over 400 years. So we're pretty close and proximate here. We haven't had - we're considered the safest city in the United States. We don't have any real issues. And we already have a fence that was established under the Bush administration that runs through our city, so...

GREENE: So you don't really need this.

MARGO: Well, from our standpoint, from a public safety standpoint, we're in good shape.

GREENE: Then what do you make of the president doing this? I mean, a lot of his supporters are very excited. He's talking about this as a real tough move to strengthen the border. You seem to suggest this is sort of business as usual, and it's not as significant as it might sound.

MARGO: Well, from our standpoint and from my observation in our region, there are not any real issues that are driving this. What I sense is driving this is that caravan of Central Americans going through Mexico, and Mexico has not stopped them, and as they approach the U.S. border, that's a problem. They're kind of tweaking him, I guess.

GREENE: What you're talking about, we've actually been - we have a reporter with that caravan talking to us in southern Mexico and we're talking about this caravan of migrants who've captured the attention of the president on Twitter. Are you saying that he wanted to send a message by putting these troops on the border right now, saying, don't try to come to the United States?

MARGO: Well, I can't speak for what he is - what goes through him. But it appears to be that way based on my personal observation of the situation. But El Paso is - we're doing fine. The police chief doesn't have any issues. We've got plenty of Customs and Border Patrol.

GREENE: El Paso's mayor, Dee Margo, talking there. Now, we had a bit of trouble with the phone connection and had to get the mayor back on the line. He talked more about his border city and its needs right now.

MARGO: What I would love to see is a better understanding of what truly goes on on the border. When I hear even in East Texas and things where there are - you know, there are some folks who are quite xenophobic. They don't understand what's going on. We understand. Come down here and understand. Now, there are pockets where you have issues. But our issues are not significant related to drug trade or otherwise. There are still issues related to human trafficking that most people know on a national and an international basis. But for the most part, as I say, we're the safest city in the United States.

GREENE: What do you think this administration doesn't understand yet about the border and about immigration?

MARGO: Well, for instance, we give in-state tuition to Mexican nationals in Texas. It is imperative that we create a middle class in Mexico so we're not having the migration north on jobs and - that type of situation at all. We're a trading partner. It's commerce. It's family. It's our entire culture. People don't understand it until they come here. I can describe it all day long, but until you show up here, it's hard to fathom.

GREENE: You're worried that moves like this might damage the relationship and the long-standing relationship with Mexico and communities across the border.

MARGO: Well, it can send messages that are misconstrued and misunderstood. Mexico has issues internally. They need to control their own borders. The problem is that sometimes this becomes intertwined at a level that doesn't need to be - that's not really there. It's more imagined than real.

GREENE: What do you mean by that?

MARGO: Well, as I just said, we are the safest city in the United States. There aren't issues needing immediate support. We are - we're doing fine.

GREENE: Dee Margo is the Republican mayor of El Paso, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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