There was no shortage of “Make America Great Again” hats, “Build the Wall” signs, and chats of “USA,” in windy El Paso, Texas on Tuesday evening. Less than an hour before President Donald Trump held his first rally of 2019, supporters poured past the El Paso County Coliseum entry gates after waiting in line all day.
19-year-old Jorge Herrera was one of the first in line.
“I had to come [to the rally], I got here at 9:00 a.m,” he said enthusiastically. “The fact that he’s the President, I think that’s great.”
The inside of the coliseum was packed with 10,000 supporters by 6:00 p.m., and thousands more outside in the parking lot and surrounding streets.
“I think Trump’s doing a good job, I don’t think he gets as much respect as he should as the president,” said Trump rally attendee Simon Gonzalez as he waited in line with family members.
When asked whether there should be a wall-built he stated, “I think there should be some kind of barrier when it comes to border security.” Gonzalez has been a resident of El Paso on and off for 50 years.
But just blocks away, former El Paso congressman Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rouke held his own rally-styled gathering with thousands of Democrats. During the “March for Truth: Stop the Wall, Stop the Lies,” gathering the message focused on “celebrating the community.”
The march preceded by an area of fencing before coming to an end at the Chalio Acosta Sports Center, less than a mile from Trump’s rally.
O’Rouke, who challenged Ted Cruz for his U.S. Senate seat and lost, has yet to formally announce whether he will run for president in 2020 on the Democratic ticket. O’Rouke, Republican El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, and El Paso County Commissioner David Stout are just a few Texans who publicly pushed back against President Trump’s claim that their city was one of the country’s most dangerous cities.
El Paso was NEVER one of the MOST dangerous cities in the US. We‘ve had a fence for 10 years and it has impacted illegal immigration and curbed criminal activity. It is NOT the sole deterrent. Law enforcement in our community continues to keep us safe #SOTU
— Mayor Dee Margo (@mayor_margo) February 6, 2019
Donald Trump Jr., who introduced his father, mentioned O’Rouke by name and his “small crowd.” Half an hour later Trump exclaimed there was “not too good” of a showing with only 200-300 people supporting O’Rouke.
Regardless of the liberal voices outside of the Coliseum, Trump stuck to his guns and reiterated that walls work.
“We need the wall and it has to be built,” Trump said. He claimed that El Paso had fewer murders than its neighboring city Juarez due to the fact that “walls work.”
Supporters like Anthony Gonzales who attended Tuesday’s rally said they believe that a wall and more troops make the most sense.
“You need a combination of both, because think about it,” Gonzales said. “Think of the costs – you’re going to have to hire more — hundreds of thousands of more — border patrol agents and they do need help.”
“Look at it this way, if you had a wall that was 30 miles right here – and you’re a gang member, you’re bringing drugs over — are you going to chose to climb over that wall to lug over your drugs? Or are you going to find an area where it’s open where you can just walk over toss the bags of whatever you’re carrying illegally into a truck? And that’s what’s going on in Columbus, New Mexico. There’s no border, there’s no wall, they are coming over.”
Trump supporters like Gonzales may have gotten their wish with D.C. lawmakers taking funding for the wall seriously.
Late Tuesday evening, multiple sources confirmed that Congress has reached “an agreement in principle” on funding for the southern border. The agreement includes $1.3 billion for a physical barrier. This would include approximately 55 miles of the border in the Rio Grande Valley, an area that directly impacts communities like El Paso.
Other notable Republicans in attendance was Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton.