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Calexico Mayor Lewis Pacheco Discusses Trump's Visit To California Border Town

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump is in Calexico, Calif., today, a small city on the border with Mexico. This visit comes after the president spent the week threatening to close that border. He has recently backed away and shifted to economic threats.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I may shut it down at some point, but I'd rather do tariff.

SHAPIRO: Lewis Pacheco is the mayor of Calexico, and he joins us now. Hi there.

LEWIS PACHECO: Good afternoon.

SHAPIRO: So in addition to President Trump's visit today, Vice President Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have toured Calexico in the last year. Do you think that what these senior administration officials see on their visits gives them a real sense of what life is like in your town?

PACHECO: You know, the issue with them coming - they bypass the city, and they don't have any type of connection to us or communicate with you, either us or the county. So they basically come and do their roundtable with the law enforcement people, and then they go out, check the portions of the fence that are being repaired. And to the extent of us having any contact or communication with them, it's not there; we don't meet with them or see them at all.

SHAPIRO: Well, if you had been invited to that roundtable with President Trump, what would you have told him?

PACHECO: You know what, we have some concerns, and basically, our neighbor to the south keeps this city and this county moving, and they generate the economy for us; that's one of the biggest things. But on the larger scope, the imports and the exports have come out of ports of entry. It's a gigantic number. It would be a tremendous, disastrous event for him to close down the ports. It's risking billions of dollars for the - our economy. It's just the wrong thing to do.

SHAPIRO: We've heard reports of a real spike in the number of migrants crossing the border into the United States. Is that something you're seeing in Calexico?

PACHECO: Not really. Those people that were here from Central America - (speaking Spanish) - they did show up at our borders, but they were quickly relocated down to a larger port in San Diego. So they took the head-on influx of those folks.

SHAPIRO: When President Trump talks about a national emergency, does that fit with what you've seen?

PACHECO: No, I'm sorry, we don't see that. Before, when people were trying to get across, it was males; the males were getting across, looking for work. The issue now is we have families coming across, families trying to leave wherever they're coming from. And it's families now; it's not just the individual male that was coming for the work.

SHAPIRO: I could imagine somebody saying, well, your town doesn't have an emergency because you have a wall, you have a section of border fence.

PACHECO: The fence is there, but we've been living with it. We coexist with our neighbors. We're working together. We're joined at the hip through the language, through the culture, religion. People live on this side of the border and work in Mexico; people in Mexico sleep in Mexico, come across the border and work. It's a mutual thing that we've got going, and it's going over 100 years.

SHAPIRO: Mayor Pacheco, Calexico is a small town - 40,000 people or so. What's it like to be at the center of this national debate right now?

PACHECO: I don't think President Trump is actually looking at the devastation that this issue would have caused if he were to close the ports along the Southwest here; we're talking Arizona, Texas, California. It would have devastated the economy to the extent that we would lose all the billions of dollars in commerce. It was just something not right. You just don't place that burden on the U.S. It's just something that was not thought out and planned out. I think cooler heads got to him and said, you know, this is not the right thing to do right now.

SHAPIRO: Mayor Lewis Pacheco of Calexico, Calif., thanks so much for speaking with us.

PACHECO: Mr. Shapiro, it was a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.