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Beto walks back 'tear down border walls'

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas speaks to MSNBC on the southern border (Screenshot MSNBC)

Last week, possible 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke was calling for existing border walls to be taken down. Now, he’s saying that some kind of physical barrier is necessary.

He said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, “there is a role for physical barriers in some places.”

The former congressman from El Paso explained his past statements referred only to his city, and he still insisted border walls haven’t made El Paso safer.

“I think there is a role for physical barriers in some places,” O’Rourke said. “I’m just as concerned about border security and safety as anyone. I live here. I’m raising my kids a short walk from the U.S.-Mexico border. But we won’t achieve that safety and security through walls.”

He said he “would work with local stakeholders, the property owners, the communities, those who actually live there, to determine the best security solution.”

Breitbart News noted O’Rourke told Oprah Winfrey a border wall is a “racist response to a problem we don’t have.” He led a protest Feb. 11 against Trump’s border-wall proposal when Trump visited El Paso for a campaign rally.

On Tuesday, President Trump mocked O’Rourke for wanting to take down existing walls.

“I think that’s probably the end of his political career,” Trump said.

O’Rourke said Tuesday he likely will make a decision about jumping into the 2020 race by the end of the February. He spent $70 million in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, last fall.

‘I’d take the wall down’

O’Rourke told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in an interview last week at the border that he not only opposed Trump’s construction plans, he would rip out existing walls on the southern border.

Hayes asked why he should let existing walls stand if he thinks walls are immoral.

“Yes, absolutely. I’d take the wall down,” he said.

El Paso residents would agree in a referendum, he added, claiming the current fencing had killed more than 4,000 illegal immigrants.

O’Rourke said the border barriers have “pushed migrants and asylum seekers and refugees to the most inhospitable, most hostile stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border, ensuring their suffering and death.”

“More than 4,000 human beings — little kids, women and children — have died,” O’Rourke said.

He called illegal immigration a human right.

“We have walled off their opportunity … to cross in urban centers like El Paso, to be with family, to work jobs, to do what any human being should have the right to be able to do,” he said.