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Trump goes after Biden on the border and crime during midwestern swing

Posted at 6:50 AM, Apr 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-02 17:43:39-04

Donald Trump again used language denounced by Democrats to hammer President Joe Biden over his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday as he campaigned in two midwestern swing states critical to the outcome of the 2024 election.

Trump, who has vowed to launch the largest domestic deportation operation in the country’s history if he wins a second term, gave a speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in which he accused Biden of allowing a “bloodbath” that was “destroying the country.” The former president referred to immigrants in the U.S. illegally suspected of crimes as “animals,” using dehumanizing language that those who study extremism have warned increases the risk of violence.

“Under Crooked Joe Biden, every state is now a border state. Every town is now a border town,” Trump said during his speech, where he stood flanked by law enforcement officers in uniform before a line of flags.

While illegal border crossings have hit record highs during Biden's presidency, Trump and Republicans have pointed to specific crimes alleged to have been committed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally to attack Biden, even as crime is down nationally overall. Polls suggest Trump has an advantage over Biden on immigration issues as many prospective voters say they’re concerned about illegal border crossings

Trump will hold a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Wednesday evening as the state holds its presidential primaries.

Trump on Tuesday focused on the killing of Ruby Garcia, a Michigan woman who was found dead on the side of a Grand Rapids highway on March 22. Police say she was in a romantic relationship with the suspect, Brandon Ortiz-Vite. He told police he shot her multiple times during an argument before dropping her body on the side of the road and driving off in her red Mazda.

Trump incorrectly referred to the 25-year-old Garcia as a 17-year-old.

Authorities say Ortiz-Vite is a citizen of Mexico and had previously been deported following a drunken driving arrest. He does not have an attorney listed in court records.

Trump had told conservative Michigan radio host Justin Barclay on Monday that he’d “love to have" members of Garcia's family in attendance “if they’d like to be there — it’d be in my honor."

Her sister pleaded on Facebook last week for reporters to stop politicizing her sister’s story.

He also again mentioned the killing of Laken Riley, a nursing student in Georgia, for which a Venezuelan man is charged. Riley’s family attended Trump’s rally in Georgia last month and met with him backstage.

Trump referred to the suspect in Riley's death as an “illegal alien animal.”

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

FBI statistics show overall violent crime dropped again in the U.S. last year, continuing a downward trend after a pandemic-era spike. In Michigan, violent crime hit a three-year low in 2022, the most recent available data. Crime in Michigan’s largest city, Detroit, is also down, with the fewest homicides last year since 1966.

Top Republicans from across Michigan had packed into a conference room in the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids to hear Trump speak in a county he won in 2016 but lost to Biden in 2020. Outside the event center, over 100 supporters stood in a cold rain to line the street where Trump’s motorcade was expected to pass.

At a nearby park, a small group advocating for immigration reform gathered to hold a moment of silence for Garcia while holding signs that read “No human being is illegal” and “Michigan welcomes immigrants.”

Biden’s campaign, which has been hammering Trump for his role in killing a bipartisan border deal that would have added more than 1,500 new Customs and Border Protection personnel, in addition to other restrictions, preempted the speech by accusing Trump of politicizing the death.

“Tomorrow, Donald Trump is coming to Grand Rapids where he is expected to once again try to politicize a tragedy and sow hate and division to hide from his own record of failing Michiganders,” said Alyssa Bradley, the Biden campaign’s Michigan communications director.

On Tuesday, the White House emphasized that immigration is a positive for the U.S. economy. Recent gains in immigration have helped to boost employment and sustain growth as the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates in order to bring down inflation.

“We know immigrants strengthen our country and also strengthen our economy,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Tuesday’s briefing, noting that immigrants were the ones doing the “critical work” on the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore when it collapsed after being struck by a ship.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said Monday that there is “a real problem on our southern border” and that it’s “really critical that Congress and the president solve the problem.”

“There was a solution on the table. It was actually the former president that encouraged Republicans to walk away from getting it done,” Whitmer said. “I don’t have a lot of tolerance for political points when it continues to endanger our economy and, to some extent, our people as we saw play out in Grand Rapids recently.”

Trump has been leaning into inflammatory rhetoric about the surge of migrants at the southern border. He has portrayed migrants as “poisoning the blood of the country,” questioned whether some should even be considered people, and claimed, without evidence, that countries have been emptying their prisons and mental asylums into the U.S.

He has also accused Biden and the Democrats of trying to "collapse the American system, nullify the will of the actual American voters and establish a new base of power that gives them control for generations.”

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Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.