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The View From McAllen, Texas, As Trump Continues His Call For A Border Wall


Today the president toured the southern border outside McAllen, Texas. Flanked by Border Patrol agents and local officials, Trump repeated his demand for a wall between the United States and Mexico.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Congress, as you know - the Democrats are holding this up because they don't want it. They think it's good politically. I think it's a disaster for them politically, but I'm not doing it for politics. I'm doing it because it's right.

SHAPIRO: This is as the partial government shutdown approaches three weeks. NPR's Wade Goodwyn was with the president this afternoon. Hi, Wade.


SHAPIRO: Tell us more about what the president did today at the Texas border.

GOODWYN: Well, the first thing the president did was hold a sort of roundtable meeting at a U.S. Border Patrol station. He had Texas Senators Ted Cruz, John Cornyn and an assortment of congressmen, local officials, Border Patrol agents, you know, that kind of thing. President Trump said he'd be happy to build a steel barrier instead of a wall, that that would do it. And he criticized the media for not sufficiently covering crime and violence by undocumented immigrants.

Then he had family members of officers who were killed by undocumented immigrants. There was a brother of a law enforcement officer and a mother of an off-duty Border Patrol agent. And they gave testimony about their lost loved ones. I mean, there was a very definite theme to the event, and that was, there's crisis here that needs to be acted upon immediately.

SHAPIRO: You are there on the border, and you've been covering this state for decades. Does it feel like there's a crisis, an emergency?

GOODWYN: Well, it does not feel like, you know, someplace that's just been hit by some sort of catastrophe. It's not like the Gulf Coast after a hurricane or, say, Joplin, Mo., after that EF5 tornado tore the place to pieces or Oklahoma City after Timothy McVeigh visited. And it doesn't feel like a town where there's been a mass shooting. Lord knows I've covered enough of those.

I mean, when those kinds of things happen, it does feel like a crisis, you know? Tragedy hangs in the air. It's tense. It's sad. That's not what McAllen feels like. That's not to say that there's not trouble in River City, that there's not a serious problem here. And with the government shutdown, it's a very definite crisis for the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who aren't getting paid and, you know, anyone who relies on the federal government. The parks that are shut down, things like that - they're out of luck.

SHAPIRO: How is the president's visit being received there in McAllen?

GOODWYN: It's being received well. People along the border are, I think, you know, inherently hospitable. I think they generally welcome visitors. Politics are not the main factor, which is not to say that, you know, they're any less divided than the rest of the country on the subject of the border wall. It's predominantly Democratic down here, but there are plenty of Republicans, too, you know, especially the winter Texans, retirees who come down from the Midwest. They spend the winters here. And there's a significant group of folks who are really of two minds about a wall.

This morning, I talked to a Balde Guerrero (ph), who's the owner of the oldest restaurant in McAllen. He's one of those who does have mixed feelings. But you know, he also has a fair amount of compassion for his fellow business owners across the border in Reynosa, Mexico.

BALDEMAR GUERRERO JR: Some of these people are good people. They're just trying to run from their problems that they have in their country. You know, the cartel is scaring off business people that I know of that had businesses over there that - the cartel go in and say, we want your business; we want - you're going to start paying us, you know, $1,500 a month. And then if you don't pay it, you know, they start killing your family.

GOODWYN: You know, it's easy to forget there are people out here like Balde who have mixed feelings about it. It's probably more than we think.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn, who was with the president today in McAllen, Texas. Thanks a lot, Wade.

GOODWYN: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.