Beto O’Rourke said he would remove the existing fences and barriers that separate El Paso, Texas, from Mexico, if he could.
O’Rourke, a Democratic former congressman who ran a high-profile senate campaign against Ted Cruz in 2018, made the statement in a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. He was answering a question asked on Twitter by Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, "If you could snap your fingers and make El Paso’s border wall disappear, would you?"
"Yes, absolutely. I'd take the wall down," O’Rourke said.
President Donald Trump held a rally Monday night in El Paso to drum up support for a border wall, citing the city’s bollard fence as proof that “walls work,” CNN reported. In his tweet, Crenshaw also said border fences have caused illegal crossings to drop. But O’Rourke, who held a rally Monday to counter Trump’s, disagrees that barriers on the border have helped security.
"Here’s what we know: after the Secure Fence Act, we have built 600 miles of wall and fencing on a 2,000 mile border," O'Rourke said. "What that has done is not in any demonstrable way made us safer."
"We do this, whether it is the war on terror, the war on drugs -- we project our fears and anxieties to places like El Paso, to the U.S.-Mexico border, and punish the people who live here. There's no reason to do that. But it is the fear and the anxiety that is stoked by people who should, and frankly do, know better that results in these policies," he said.
He said that the fencing has instead forced migrants to the most inhospitable areas of the southern border, "ensuring their suffering and death.”
O’Rourke criticized Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency in order to fund his border wall.
"It's hard to make a rational case for an emergency declaration or troops on the border or any amount of additional border walls or border fencing or steel slats," O'Rourke said.
Congress passed a government spending deal Thursday to avoid a government shutdown. The deal would provide further funding for border security but not for Trump's wall. Trump said Thursday he’d sign the spending measure, but would also declare a national emergency "to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border."
O’Rourke has said he will decide this month whether he will run for president in 2020.