Trump in Michigan labels flow of immigrants ‘country changing’

Trump in Michigan labels flow of immigrants ‘country changing’
Trump in Michigan labels flow of immigrants ‘country changing’

Grand Rapids — Former President Donald Trump argued in Michigan on Tuesday the spike in crossings at the southern border was “country changing” and defended his use of the word “animals” to describe illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes.

“This is country changing,” Trump said about a surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border in recent years. “It’s country threatening. And it’s country wrecking. They have wrecked our country.”

Trump, a Republican, vowed to close the southern border to new migrants and orchestrate the largest deportation effort in the history of the nation if he wins a second term as president.

His campaign event inside a downtown Grand Rapids convention center came seven months before the November election, in which he hopes to unseat Democratic President Joe Biden. An increase in illegal crossings at the southern border has become a focus of the race.

Michigan will be among a handful of states that decide whether Biden or Trump wins. In 2020, Biden defeated Trump in Michigan by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points, 51%-48%.

Trump said Tuesday if he doesn’t win the presidency in November, it could be the “last election” the country has. It wasn’t clear what he was basing the statement on.

The former president’s comments in Grand Rapids marked a continued escalation of his emphasis on illegal immigration, which he said was “an invasion.”

Between October and February, US Customs and Border Protection reported 1.15 million encounters with migrants trying to cross the southern border, a 189% increase from the same period in late 2020 and early 2021, Trump’s final months in office.

At one point, Trump defended his past description of illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes as “animals.”

“Democrats say, ‘Please, don’t call them animals. They’re humans.’ I say no, they’re not humans,” Trump said. “They’re not humans. They’re animals.”

“Nancy Pelosi told me that,” Trump added, referencing the California congresswoman and former House speaker. “She said, ‘Please don’t use the word animals when you’re talking about these people.’ I said, ‘I’ll use the word animal because that’s what they are.'”

Democrats on Tuesday said it’s Trump who’s to blame for the border crisis because he instructed his Senate allies to scuttle bipartisan legislation that would have targeted border problems and was negotiated by one of the Senate’s most stalwart conservatives over several months.

“There are very real security concerns at the border, and on Feb. 7 of this year, Senate Republicans had a chance to vote for a tough, effective, bipartisan bill to address those challenges,” US Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, said Tuesday ahead of Trump’s speech. “Fifty-five days later, we’re still waiting for that bill to pass. … (Trump) told them to stop the bill.”

Trump’s visit came after the March 22 killing of Ruby Garcia, a 25-year-old Grand Rapids woman, whose boyfriend, Brandon Ortiz-Vite, allegedly shot her and dumped her body on the side of US 131, just north of downtown Grand Rapids . Ortiz-Vite is a Mexican national who was previously deported when Trump was president, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Trump called Garcia a “beautiful young woman” and Ortiz-Vite a “monster” who had been set loose to “roam our streets.”

Stabenow described Garcia’s death as a horrible tragedy but said that Trump and other Republicans are “hell-bent” on exploiting her death for political gain, and, “frankly, I think it’s shameful.”

Trump said he had spoken to some of Garcia’s family members and heard from people that Garcia had a contagious laugh and lit up rooms when she walked in. But Garcia’s sister, Mavi, told WOOD-TV that family members hadn’t spoken with Trump.

“He did not speak with any of us, so it was kind of shocking seeing that he had said that he had spoken with us, and misinforming people on live TV,” Mavi Garcia told the Grand Rapids television station.

More: Trump homes in on Grand Rapids woman’s killing; critics question his sincerity

‘We need leadership’

Trump spoke for about 30 minutes in Grand Rapids before a crowd of reporters and Republican activists and elected officials. The event was not open to the general public. He also held a policy discussion with law enforcement personnel and politicians from Michigan. Trump’s presidential campaign allowed some members of the media to listen in on the conversation for a few minutes.

“I think they want crime. … It doesn’t make sense what they’re doing,” Trump said about Democrats during a policy discussion with Michigan officials.

Among the participants in Trump’s event were former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, US Senate candidate Mike Rogers, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, Allegan County Prosecutor Myrene Koch and Van Buren County Sheriff Dan Abbott.

Abbott said 40% of the inmates in the jail in Van Buren County have out-of-county residences. Out of those 40%, 10% have addresses in Mexico or Guatemala, Abbott said.

“We need leadership at the national level that is willing to solve this crisis,” Abbott said. “President Trump, without a doubt, is the leader we need to get the job done.”

People wearing sheriff’s uniforms from agencies in Cass, Crawford and Shiawassee counties were also present for the event. And James Tignanelli, president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan, presented Trump with his organization’s endorsement.

“Why would you expect people to obey the law when millions are rewarded for disobeying it?” Tignanelli said before announcing the endorsement.

Trump himself is facing a variety of criminal charges. Some of them are related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He has described the allegations as political prosecutions.

‘That primary is over’

Trump repeatedly waded into local Michigan politics during his remarks. He criticized Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s management of the coronavirus pandemic and touted his backing of Rogers for Michigan’s open US Senate seat, calling him a “very respected person.”

“When he did his television thing, he was always fair,” Trump said of Rogers, who was previously a paid contributor for CNN.

Rogers was sometimes critical of Trump during his time at CNN, once describing Trump’s actions as “petty” and “below the stature of the office” and on another occasion saying, “Trump was not my candidate.”

“I think that primary is over,” Trump said of the GOP nomination race for Stabenow’s seat.

Multiple Republicans are still running against Rogers, including Grosse Pointe businessman Sandy Pensler and former US Reps. Justin Amash and Peter Meijer from the Grand Rapids area. Last week, a group of two dozen Michigan Republican delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention signed a resolution opposing Trump’s endorsement of Rogers.

More: Mike Rogers targets China in the Senate campaign, but his own connections draw criticism

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, a Republican from Van Buren County in southwest Michigan, was among the other GOP officials in attendance on Tuesday.

Nesbitt said Biden’s policies on the southern border had been a “disaster for the country.”

“Every state is a border state now,” Nesbitt said.

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The article is in Norwegian

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