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The people Trump’s border wall is supposed to protect the most say they don’t want it

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Far removed from the border.
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Donald Trump repeated his promise to Americans at the Republican national convention last week that he’ll erect a giant wall between the US and Mexico if elected president. The barrier, a centerpiece of the GOP presidential nominee’s campaign, is meant to block the many ills he says are freely flowing from Mexico into the US, including drugs, gangs, and illegal immigrants.

As it turns out, the majority of Americans living next to dividing line between the two countries—the people who would most benefit from the wall under Trump’s logic—say they don’t need it, according to a new poll conducted by Univision, the Dallas Morning News, and Cronkite News.

The poll interviewed roughly 1,400 people living close to either side of the border. Of the half interviewed on the US side, the poll found that 65% think the wall should absolutely not be built, and another 7% said it probably shouldn’t be built. Only 14% felt very strongly that the wall should be built, while 9% thought it probably should be built. The survey, which was carried out in May, covered seven sets of “sister cities,” as communities across from each other in both countries are called.

The poll highlights a common disconnect between immigration policies devised by politicians far removed from the border and border communities themselves. Leaders in cities such as San Diego, the site of the busiest border crossing in the country, and El Paso, Texas, which borders Ciudad Juárez, once considered one of the world’s most dangerous places, have long argued that what they need is more openness towards Mexico, not less. This view typically isn’t reflected on Capitol Hill.

Border states in the US and Mexico have become economically intertwined over the past few decades, particularly since the signing of NAFTA, which created a trade bloc between the two countries and Canada. The good fortunes of one side spill over to the other. For example, for every 10% increase in the wages of Mexican assembly plant workers known as maquiladoras, employment grows by 1.3% to 1.6% (pdf) along the Texas border.

Indeed, the recent poll shows that nearly 80% of border residents on the US side consider their city very much or at least somewhat economically dependent on their sister city in Mexico. Respondents also have a considerably more favorable view of Mexicans than Trump, who famously referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug traffickers. Only a tiny percentage— 1%— view them similarly as criminals. Thirty eight percent of respondents instead see them as neighbors, another 35% as immigrants seeking a better life, and 11% as trading partners.

Their opposition to the wall doesn’t necessarily mean residents on the US side of the border don’t want extra security though. Forty four percent said they would like to see more border patrol agents. Still, they apparently don’t feel the same angst as Trump.  The vast majority—70%—said they feel extremely or very safe, while 8% said they don’t feel that safe, or not safe at all.

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