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Texas lawmaker: 'The border is safe'

Texas lawmaker: 'The border is safe'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) said Wednesday the U.S.-Mexico border is as safe as it has ever been and any increase in border security funding can only produce "marginal improvement."

O'Rourke, whose district covers most of El Paso, Texas, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, insisted border security has been achieved.

"We can no longer concede the premise to the other side. Even when the president of the United States says all these amazing things about our policy vis a vis Mexico and immigration and he says, ‘but first we’ll secure the border.’ Absolutely the wrong way to view this."

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Speaking at a conference on border competitiveness at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, O'Rourke said the facts support his assertion, but "in the age of Trump we need to be aware of emotional rhetoric and its power regardless of whether or not it’s based in fact."

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE based his successful primary campaign on a promise to build a wall on the Mexican border, paid for by Mexico. His rhetoric regarding Mexico and Mexican immigrants has been harshly criticized both by Democrats and Republicans.

Mexican Ambassador Carlos Sada agreed with O'Rourke's assessment of the border's importance, adding that "the border with Mexico is becoming more and more crucial in protecting the interests of the United States."

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump fights for battleground Arizona Flake cuts ad for Biden: 'Character' matters What a Biden administration should look like MORE (R-Ariz.) delivered the keynote address at the conference. He prioritized the border region's economic interests and the importance of free trade.

"How in the world do we expect to grow economically and to compete in a global marketplace if we shut down our borders and we build Fortress America and shun these free trade agreements?"

O'Rourke said it is up to people from the border to help others understand the realities of the region.

"The border is safe, it’s secure, El Paso is the safest city in America. Let’s own that, let’s be proud of that. And then I think good policy can follow from that, better outcomes included."

Flake said the border discussion "obviously includes security, but we need to talk more about commerce," adding that on those points, "we struggle with both those in our party, many of whom just want to talk about walls or things like that, as well as the other party."