National Security

El Paso Wall? Don’t Ask the Politicians, Ask the Residents

The barrier in El Paso, Texas is far less imposing than some of the proposed designs for the border wall. What is there now is a two-story corrugated metal fence first erected under the Bush administration. The fence has dramatically reduced both illegal border crossings and crime in Texas’ sixth-largest city. El Paso borders the Mexican city of Juarez. Juarez, El Paso’s sister city on the other side of the fence, is ranked as the 20th most dangerous city in the world.

After the fence was built, the number of deportable illegal immigrants located by the U.S. Border Patrol fell by 89 percent. This is over five years after the barrier went up. To look at the numbers, when the project began in 2006, illegal crossings numbered 122,261.  After the fence was completed in 2010, all 131 miles of it, illegal crossings totaled only 12,251.

In 2012 the number of illegal crossings was 9,678. Numbers have risen somewhat since but they are still way below pre-fence levels. The Border Patrol credits the barrier dividing El Paso from Mexico as the main reason.

When President Trump claimed the fence caused a reduction in violent crime, he received pushback from the mayor of El Paso. The mayor took exception to the comment that El Paso was one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. before the fence and then became one of the safest after. But looking at the data there is truth on both sides. As to strictly violent crimes such as rape and murder, El Paso rates haven’t changed all that much. What has dropped by more than half is auto thefts and general crime.

Most murders are not crimes that happen randomly. Murder and rape are more often committed by people the victim knew. City-Data rated the crime index in El Paso at 286.1 in 2006, the year the fence was started. That number had dropped to 199.7 by 2016.

Federal data show a distinct turnaround in crime since the fence was built. FBI tables show thefts and property crimes in El Paso have dropped more than 37 percent to 12,357. This is from a high of 19,702 a year before the fence was in place. Violent crimes have declined more than six percent to 2,682 from a peak of 2,861 a year.

The year before the fence was completed, the volume of illegal drugs seized by law enforcement in the El Paso border region reached 87,725 pounds. Once finished, the pounds of drugs seized plummeted to 43,783 pounds.

Residents and business owners in El Paso have generally praised the fence, calling it an effective deterrent to both illegal immigration in the area as well as crime. Even with this info, Democrat leaders are adamantly opposed to it. The Democrats are arguing with an example of success.

As President Trump held a campaign rally in El Paso, he undoubtedly praised the fence that separates El Paso from Mexico and point to it as an example of how the barrier is needed.

Beto O’Rourke, the failed candidate for Texas Senator and an undeclared candidate for U.S. president in 2020, said, “That wall in itself is a racist reaction to a racist myth that does not reflect the reality of this country at all,” and held a counter-rally not far from President Trump’s.

Beto is keeping his eyes closed because he doesn’t want to see what is right in front of him. That will be even harder to ignore when the president builds the wall.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Jon Harris

Jon Harris is a former Army NCO, Sergeant Morales Club member, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He is published in Army Trainer Magazine, authored regular columns in several newspapers, and is the author of the Cold War novel Breakpoint. His adventures as a security contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq can be found on He holds a B.S. in Government and Politics and an M.S. in Criminal Justice and is currently completing his Juris Doctor degree.

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