With goods in hand, pedestrians walk towards the Paso del Norte international bridge to cross from El Paso into Ciudad Juarez. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images
The proposed wall doesnt seem to faze locals at all. Firstly, they argue it will be a boost to the local economy. A $20bn wall would inject $10bn into the Texas economy and create 144,000 jobs, says Tom Fullerton, economics professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. But over the long run it wont have much impact at all, he says.
Locals dont think it will have much impact on drug trade or illegal entries. Drug smugglers are already using mini cannons like the ones used to fire T-shirts into the crowds at sports events to fire their drugs over the border. What they cant go over, theyll go under. More tunnels will be dug.
But El Pasoans are genuinely angered by Trumps constant attacks on their neighbors and his portrayal of a wild west border that few here recognise. Its deeply personal, says Moore. People here feel hes not just attacking the border, hes attacking me. Everyone in El Paso knows someone who is undocumented and the way this administration has talked about them is seen as really insulting.
Thats not to say that many in El Paso do not sympathize with Trumps supporters. The city was one of the first victims of globalization and profoundly impacted by Nafta, says Fullerton.
Once the jeans capital of the US and home to manufacturers including Levi Strauss and Farah at its peak the second largest employer in the city El Paso fell on hard times as trade barriers fell and manufacturing jobs went south of the border. But the city bounced back. The unemployment rate in El Paso was close to 12% when Nafta was signed in 1994 and it is now less than 5%. The border region has benefitted from Nafta; so has the entire country, says Fullerton.
Mexican trade is vital to Texas. Some $98bn in exports and imports passed through the El Paso customs district in 2015. According to the Dallas Federal Reserve, a 10% increase in manufacturing on the Mexican side of the border increases employment by 2.8% in El Paso, 2.2% in neighbouring Brownsville, 4.6% in Laredo and 6.6% in McAllen.
People want simple solutions. They want to be told, Dont worry, we will sort it, says Fullerton. But economics is not simple. And neither, right now, is politics.
Washington is in Easter recess and while Trump plays golf in Florida, the rightwing billionaire Koch brothers are spending millions backing ads attacking his border tax plans, arguing they amount to a consumer tax that will increase costs on everything from clothes and TVs to food and will land the average US family with a $1,700 bill. The ads are playing nationwide in states that elected a president who promised them change but who now, the Kochs argue, is threatening their livelihoods and their pocketbooks.
Attacking from the left is ORourke. The five states that would be hurt by a border adjustment tax, which would essentially precipitate a trade war, are mid-western states, states like Michigan. Factory floor jobs in Detroit are inextricably connected to factory floor jobs in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. If you break that connection with a tax or you continue to try to humiliate Mexico, you jeopardize not just jobs in Mexico and El Paso but in Michigan and across the United States.
What was once a proposed 20% border tax may well end up being something far smaller, says Fullerton, but he still believes there is a good chance that some sort of tax is coming. The sentiment in the country is so anti-trade that I think Congress would be reluctant to vote against a serious proposal, he says.
In the baking-hot parking lot of the College, Career and Technology Academy ORourke, the left-leaning liberal Democrat, sets out the case for free trade and against new taxes. America needs to listen to Trumps supporters. Too many have been left behind, he says. But they need retraining not tariffs. We need not be paranoid and fearful of the future, of other countries. Thats not America. Thats not Texas. This is a dark time he says. But I am confident it is getting better.