Trump accuses Biden of causing a border ‘bloodbath’ as he escalates his immigration rhetoric

Apr 1, 2024, 9:07 PM | Updated: Apr 2, 2024, 7:36 pm

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Donald Trump accused President Joe Biden of unleashing a “bloodbath” at the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday, escalating his inflammatory rhetoric as he campaigned in two Midwestern swing states likely to be critical to the outcome of the 2024 election.

Trump, who has accused migrants of “poisoning the blood of the country” and vowed to launch the largest domestic deportation operation in the nation’s history if he wins a second term, said Biden was allowing a “bloodbath” that was “destroying the country.” In Michigan, he referred to people in the U.S. illegally who are suspected of committing 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 because Joe Biden has brought the carnage and chaos and killing from all over world and dumped it straight into our backyards,” Trump said in Grand Rapids, where he stood flanked by law enforcement officers in uniform before a line of flags.

While violent crime is down, Trump and other Republicans have attacked Biden by seizing on several high-profile crimes alleged to have been committed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally as border crossings have hit record highs. Polls suggest Trump has an advantage over Biden on the issue as many prospective voters say they’re concerned about the impact of the crossings.

Trump continued to hammer the theme at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Tuesday evening as the state was holding its presidential primaries. Trump accused rogue nations of “pumping migrants across our wide open border” and “sending prisoners, murders, drug dealers, mental patients, terrorists” — though there is no evidence any country is engaged in that kind of coordinated effort.

He also claimed that migrants would cost the country trillions of dollars in public benefits and cause Social Security and Medicare to “buckle and collapse.”

“If you want to help Joe Biden wheel granny off the cliff to fund government benefits for illegals, then vote for Crooked Joe Biden,” he said. “But when I am president, instead of throwing granny overboard, I will send Joe Biden’s illegal aliens back home.”

Biden’s campaign said Trump is the one who threatens the programs. “Donald Trump is trying to hide his unpopular record with erratic lies and desperate denials,” said Brianna Johnson, the campaign’s Wisconsin communications director.

The White House emphasized the positive impact that immigration has on the U.S. economy. They argued that recent gains in immigration have helped to boost employment and sustained growth as the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates 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.

Trump invoked 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 in his remarks said that he had spoken to some of her family. Garcia’s sister, Mavi, however, disputed his account, telling Fox17 that they had not. “No, he did not speak with us,” the outlet said she told them in a text message, declining to comment further.

She also pleaded on Facebook last week for reporters to stop politicizing her sister’s story, and on Tuesday asked for privacy, saying she only wanted “justice to be served” and to “be left alone.”

Trump also again mentioned the killing of Laken Riley, a nursing student in Georgia. A Venezuelan man who officials say entered the U.S. illegally has been 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, according to the most recent available data. Crime in Michigan’s largest city, Detroit, is also down, with the fewest homicides last year since 1966.

Michigan and Wisconsin are seen as critical battleground states in this year’s election. Trump won both in 2016, toppling the Democrats’ so-called “blue wall,” but lost them to Biden in 2020. His campaign is hoping to win them back with a particular focus on blue-collar workers and union members.

In Green Bay, some supporters braved snowfall for three hours outside to enter the venue. In Grand Rapids, over 100 supporters stood in the 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 has tried to counter Trump’s attacks by hammering the former president 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.

“There was a solution on the table. It was actually the former president that encouraged Republicans to walk away from getting it done,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said Monday. “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 since he became his party’s presumptive nominee. 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.

In Green Bay, Trump spoke beside an empty podium that read, “Anytime. Anywhere. Anyplace.” Trump said it was meant for Biden, whose campaign has not committed to participating in debates.

___ Gomez Licon reported from Green Bay, Wis. Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.

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Trump accuses Biden of causing a border ‘bloodbath’ as he escalates his immigration rhetoric