LAREDO, Texas — A local border patrol union pulled out of events involving
Donald Trump on Thursday as the Republican presidential contender charged ahead
with plans to visit the Mexican border to highlight his hardline stance on
Patrol agents had planned to accompany Trump to the border and hold a meeting
with him but canceled after consultations with their national union, the
National Border Patrol Council, said Hector Garza, president of Local 2455.
The Trump campaign said in a statement he would go to the border anyway in the
afternoon, “despite the great danger,” and blamed the snub on the union’s
superiors “who do not want people to know how bad it is on the border — every
bit as bad as Mr. Trump has been saying.”
The businessman and reality TV host was planning multiple appearances in
Laredo, including an afternoon news conference.
Garza said the union opted out of the Trump visit “after careful consideration
of all the factors involved in this event and communicating with members of the
National Border Patrol Council.”
He said agents had intended to give Trump and
the accompanying press a “boots-on-the-ground perspective” at the border.
During his visit to Laredo, Trump will be a short distance from the volatile
Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo.
As for concerns about dangers, however,
lawmakers and other well-known officials routinely visit the area and tour
border facilities at the country’s busiest inland port.
His visit drew strong reaction from some residents of Laredo, which has an
overwhelmingly Hispanic population.
Pedro Omar Castillo, 72, suggested that Trump needs the growing Hispanic vote
to be successful in 2016. “But he’s not going to get it because of his words,”
Castillo said in Spanish as he walked through a downtown park. “He is a
Trump roiled the presidential race weeks ago when he branded Mexican immigrants
rapists and criminals, sparking a feud with his GOP rivals that intensified
after his dismissive comments about Arizona Sen. John McCain’s military service
in the Vietnam War.
From party heavyweights like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to relative newcomers
to the national scene like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Trump’s rivals face his
tactics of calling out his critics by name, vilifying the GOP establishment and
injecting inflammatory rhetoric into the immigration debate.
In Washington on Wednesday, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was asked about
Trump’s trip to Laredo. He snapped, “I hope he can find the border because I’m
not sure he’s ever been there before.”
That was after Perry, a GOP presidential contender, denounced Trump’s campaign
as a “cancer on conservatism” and a “barking carnival act” in a speech that
defined “Trumpism” as “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and
nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”
Indeed, the insults flying between Trump and his rivals have been caustic. Sen.
Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday, “The only way we’re going to be able to
lose the election is continue to say things like Donald Trump is saying.”
“Donald Trump is a great showman,” Graham told MSNBC. “That’s why all these
companies hired him to sell their products. That’s the reason all these
companies are firing him, because he’s toxic.”
“I think he’s sort of a political car wreck where people slow down and
watch,” Graham added.
Others in the GOP field have been more measured, though showing signs of
growing exasperation. Bush, in particular, has conspicuously tried to avoid
alienating Trump’s supporters — “good people” with “legitimate concerns —
even while branding Trump’s rhetoric as “ugly” and “mean-spirited.”
The feud is unfolding as the candidates head into a presidential election in
which Hispanic voters will play a critical role, particularly in swing states
like Nevada, Colorado and Florida.
“If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want
them in the United States, they will not pay attention to our next sentence,”
reads a Republican National Committee report released after the 2012 election,
citing the need to embrace Hispanic voters.
“It does not matter what we say
about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them
here, they will close their ears to our policies.”
Yet Trump, who has become a dominant force in the 2016 contest, has clearly
stated, over and over again, that Mexican immigrants are unwelcome.
“The Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United
States,” and “criminals, drug dealers, rapists” are among them, he said in a
recent statement that also declared “great respect for Mexico.”