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El Paso County Commissioner On Trump Visit

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. We want to talk about this more, but I do just want to take a moment to listen back to how President Trump has spoken about the city of El Paso in the past. Here are a few examples.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In El Paso, they had - it was one of the most dangerous cities in the country.

That's the way it is. You know, if you look at El Paso, if you look at certain places - but El Paso was one of the most dangerous cities in the whole country.

The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime, one of the highest in the entire country and considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities.

GREENE: All right. Also sitting with me here in El Paso is Vincent Perez. He's an El Paso county commissioner. Commissioner, thanks for coming in on what I'm sure has been a busy time for you.

VINCENT PEREZ: Thank you for having me.

GREENE: What do you hope to hear from the president today when he's here?

PEREZ: You know, I think, you know, given a lot of the words that he has used to describe El Paso and used to describe immigrants, you know, he's used a lot of divisive and very violent rhetoric. I hope when he comes here that he strongly condemns in no uncertain terms racial terrorism. That's exactly what this was. You had a case where you had an individual who drove 10 hours and somebody who deliberately targeted El Paso because of the high percentage of Hispanics that live here. So, you know, I heard the president's speech, you know, where he said that our nation, you know, needs to speak in one voice in condemning, you know, bigotry and white supremacy. But I haven't heard the president himself say that.

GREENE: You see a real distinction. When he says our nation, you want to hear I.

PEREZ: I think there is a big distinction. I think he's asking the nation to do something that he has yet to do. And so I hope he makes some sort of statement again that that's clear and in no uncertain terms that he strongly condemns, you know, this attack and strongly - you know, these incidents of racial terrorism.

GREENE: You know, we were speaking yesterday to a man named Tito Anchondo. He lost his brother and sister-in-law at the Walmart. He says he wants the president to be here, maybe even wants the chance to talk to him. I guess I'm wondering, like, there's a lot of disagreement, with some even calling for Trump not to come. But do you and other leaders owe it to the people who are looking for some kind of healing from the institution of the presidency to sort of, you know, welcome this?

PEREZ: You know, again, if he were to use this as an opportunity to, you know, really change, you know, the tone that he has used, I think that would be welcome and I think very much needed because I think there's a strong sense of fear that this could happen again. You know, that - you know, the president has frequently used terms such as invasion and infestation. He's called Mexicans rapists and murderers and thugs and drug dealers. You know, it's unsettling knowing that - or there being that uncertainty that he could fire off some tweet and set off some other individual that, you know, perhaps has some underlying mental illness or just isn't right in the head and, you know, considers this a call to action to come and carry out another atrocity like this. So...

GREENE: So part of your message to him today is be careful.

PEREZ: It's not just to be careful, but I hope he dramatically shifts, you know, his tone and word choice that he has used to describe communities such as El Paso and that he's used to describe Hispanic Americans and Mexicans Americans in the United States.

GREENE: In the few seconds we have left, are you going to be part of any of the visit?

PEREZ: I won't be. You know, the White House hasn't released his schedule. It hasn't released any of the activities that he'll be doing here in El Paso. My colleagues and I on the commissioners court will be in the commissioners courtroom today working on our budget hearings. And so we'll be locked down on that.

GREENE: Vincent Perez is an El Paso county commissioner. Thanks so much.

PEREZ: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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