McALLEN — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke met with the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Manuel Padilla Jr. on Wednesday during the El Paso U.S. congressman’s swing through the region.
Padilla told O’Rourke he did not have maps showing where the 33 miles of border wall in the Valley will be located, O’Rourke said, but he specified there will be 8 miles in Starr County and 25 in Hidalgo County, as was previously announced by the Trump administration.
“My request from him was, ‘Is there a way that we can do this that is sensitive to the community that incorporates the community’s priorities?’” O’Rourke told The Monitor.
The head of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, was not at Wednesday’s meeting, but O’Rourke said he spoke to McAleenan and was encouraged by what the CBP chief had to say. Benjamine “Carry” Huffman, CBP’s chief of strategic planning, attended Wednesday’s meeting with Padilla.
“One of the more encouraging things that Carry told me was that beyond the boots on the ground, beyond the technology, beyond the infrastructure and physical barriers, is trust,” O’Rourke said. “And if we do not have trust with the community, then none of that stuff matters.”
O’Rourke said he told Huffman a story about an undocumented woman in El Paso who was arrested in the El Paso County Courthouse by two plain clothes Border Patrol officers.
“And immediately, people in the immigrant community feel less comfortable reporting crimes or stepping forward and saying, ‘My boyfriend’s beating the (crap) out of me. I need some help,’ or, ‘I think this might be a stash house next door,’ or all the things that make us more safe when everyone feels comfortable working with local law enforcement,” O’Rourke said. “That’s my case for border security.”
In addition to addressing the meeting with Padilla, O’Rourke acknowledged the letter his campaign recently sent to Sen. Ted Cruz challenging him to six debates, including two in Spanish, which was first reported by The Texas Tribune.
While O’Rourke said he has not heard directly from the Cruz campaign, Cruz dismissed the idea of Spanish language debates to reporters in San Antonio on Tuesday, saying his Spanish is “lousy.”
“A debate in Spanish would not be very good, because my Spanish isn’t good enough,” Cruz said, according to the Texas Tribune, “but I look forward to debating Congressman O’Rourke.”
O’Rourke said he was pleased Cruz was talking about a debate, even if it was through the press.
“Obviously, he’s incredibly talented — a national debate guy in college, a presidential primary debater — so not an easy thing to do,” O’Rourke said. “But (it is) a necessary thing to do.”
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, met with Border Patrol RGV Sector Chief Manuel Padilla Jr. on Wednesday. O’Rourke, a candidate for Senate, participated in his capacity as a congressman. The Border Patrol does not meet with candidates seeking office.