- Associated Press - Friday, April 21, 2017

EL PASO, Texas (AP) - Community leaders in El Paso are condemning remarks made by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a visit to their city that they say portray the border as a war zone.

Sessions said Thursday that the border is “ground zero” against cartels and transnational gangs. He also called the border a “beachhead.” The community leaders say such rhetoric harms El Paso, which is located on the U.S. border with Mexico.

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar called Sessions’ comments “offensive” and said they promote a completely erroneous perception of the border.

Escobar told the El Paso Times (https://bit.ly/2oRPY7I ) that the city already has a challenging time recruiting professionals, and that such rhetoric provides an incorrect answer to one of the first questions professionals ask when they consider moving here: whether it’s a safe place.

Sessions, who is on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, did say he believes El Paso has done a good job in keeping crime low. But that was of little comfort to area leaders.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, said calling the border ground zero makes it difficult to attract professionals to the city. He said El Pasoans, including himself, now have to work harder to share the facts and the contributions that the city makes to the security of Texas and the U.S. in general.

Richard Dayoub, president and CEO of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, said Sessions’ comments are detrimental to the extensive efforts by El Paso business and political leaders to inform and educate the country about the reality of border life.

“We are, on a positive note, ground zero for economic growth as it relates to our partnership with Mexico in the NAFTA agreement that we all benefit from, not just here in El Paso, along the southern border, but throughout the nation,” Dayoub said.

Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, said, “This is not a community of violence, this is not a community that is out of control. This is a beautiful community that represents the contributions and hard work of everybody - migrant and not migrant.”


Information from: El Paso Times, https://www.elpasotimes.com

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