EL PASO (AP) – President Barack Obama is expected to address border trade and security issues Tuesday during his second visit to El Paso in less than a year next week and then head off to attend a fundraiser in Austin.
El Paso Mayor John Cook told The Associated Press Thursday that he has received information that Obama will visit Chamizal National Memorial, on the U.S.-Mexico border, a few blocks from downtown El Paso.
The president’s second visit to El Paso in less than a year “is an indication that we are an extremely important city,” Cook said. The mayor said trade between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, just across the border, has grown from $52 billion per year in 2005 to $71 billion last year. “And that’s in the middle of a recession,” Cook added.
Julie Hillrichs, a spokeswoman for the Texas Border Coalition, began hearing that Obama was likely to visit the U.S.-Mexico border well before details were finalized. “We hope he will be discussing border security,” she said. Her group represents border city mayors, county judges and economic development commissions.
During his last trip to El Paso in August, Obama visited Fort Bliss to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq.
Councilwoman Susie Byrd said she hopes to get a chance to speak to the president about the need to find solutions for border security that are more effective and less costly. “The border fence is a good example,” Byrd said. “We are throwing a very wide net now.” She also hopes to make Obama reconsider the approach the drug war strategy because, she said, “they are not working, they are expensive, and have come at great expense to the residents of Juarez, our sister city.”
The White House has not released details on the president’s agenda so far, but a fundraising email sent last week to potential donors said he was scheduled to attend a fundraiser in Austin, a sliver of liberalism in an otherwise Republican stronghold. No Democratic presidential candidate has won in Texas since 1976.
Bruce Buchanan, a professor in the Department of Government in the University of Texas at Austin, said that Obama will have a fundraiser in Austin because he always has a great reception there. “He came here several times during his campaign,” even before he was considered a strong contender.
Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, says that Obama had strong support of Hispanic voters in 2008. “He has lost some momentum and wants to regain it.”
Texas is the “last frontier for Latino votes,” says Buchanan. Unlike California, where Hispanic voters are more mobilized, in Texas the turnout is very low, says Buchanan.
“Repeated visits might not only increase it, but link the turnout to the fortunes of the Democratic Party” in a 2012 election where immigration will likely be a central issue, Buchanan said.
The White House says Obama will return to Washington the same day.
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