UNITED STATES NEWS

Trump blasts immigrants for taking jobs as he courts voters at a Black church, MAGA event in Detroit

Jun 15, 2024, 4:32 AM

DETROIT (AP) — Donald Trump blamed immigrants for stealing jobs and government resources as he courted separate groups of Black voters and hardcore conservatives in battleground Michigan on Saturday.

The Republican former president also made several new baseless claims attacking the nation’s voting system.

But Trump’s fiery comments on illegal immigration, long a staple in his unapologetic message, marked a connecting theme in downtown Detroit as he sought to stitch together a delicate political coalition at both a Black church and a group known to attract white supremacists.

“The people coming across the border — all those millions of people — they’re inflicting tremendous harm to our Black population and to our Hispanic population,” Trump told a cheering crowd of thousands of conservative activists packed into a vast convention hall.

“They’re not human beings. They’re animals,” he said later in referencing members of violent immigrant gangs.

Trump’s diverse weekend schedule underscores the evolving political forces shaping the presidential election this fall as he tries to deny Democratic President Joe Biden a second term.

Few states may matter more in November than Michigan, which Biden carried by less than 3 percentage points four years ago. And few voting groups matter more to Democrats than African Americans, who made up the backbone of Biden’s political base in 2020. But now, less than five months before Election Day, Black voters are expressing modest signs of disappointment with the 81-year-old Democrat.

Trump, who turned 78 on Friday, is fighting to take advantage of his apparent opening.

His crowd was far smaller, but also warmly receptive, when he visited the 180 Church earlier in the day. Derelict vehicles sat outside the modest brick building with “Black Americans for Trump” signs affixed. Rap music and barbecue smoke wafted from a pre-event gathering organized by the Black Conservative Federation group.

“It’s a very important area for us,” Trump told the church crowd, which included a significant number of white people. He promised to return “some Sunday” for a sermon.

He argued that the Black community “is being hurt” by immigrants in the country illegally.

“They’re invading your jobs,” he said.

Trump offered a similar message later in the day while addressing the “People’s Convention” of Turning Point Action, a group that the Anti-Defamation League says has been linked to a variety of extremists.

Roughly 24 hours before the former president spoke, well-known white supremacist Nick Fuentes entered the hall surrounded by a group of cheering supporters. Security quickly escorted him out, but Fuentes created political problems for Trump after attending a private lunch with the former president and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West at Trump’s Florida estate in 2022.

Turning Point has emerged as a force in GOP politics in the Trump era, particularly among his “Make America Great Again” movement, despite the Anti-Defamation League’s warning that the group “continues to attract racists.”

“Numerous individuals associated with the group have made bigoted statements about the Black community, the LGBTQ community and other groups,” the ADL, an international anti-hate group, wrote in a background memo. “While TPUSA (Turning Point USA) leaders say they reject white supremacist ideology, known white nationalists have attended their events.”

Turning Point spokesperson Andrew Kolvet dismissed the ADL’s characterization as “smears and lies.” He added that Turning Point has been blocking Fuentes from attending its events for “years.”

“The ADL is a scourge on America, which sows poison and division. They’ve completely lost the plot,” Kolvet said, describing the ADL’s criticism as “a badge of honor.”

Meanwhile, Democrats offered a competing perspective from afar.

“Donald Trump is so dangerous for Michigan and dangerous for America and dangerous for Black people,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, who is African American. He called it “offensive” for Trump to address the Turning Point conference, which was taking place at the same convention center that was “the epicenter of their steal the election effort.”

Indeed, dozens of angry Trump loyalists chanting “Stop the count!” descended on the TCF Center, now named Huntington Place, the day after the 2020 presidential election as absentee ballots were being counted. Local media captured scenes of protesters outside and in the lobby. Police prevented them from entering the counting area.

The protests occurred after Trump had tweeted that “they are finding Biden votes all over” in several states, including Michigan.

The false notion that Biden benefited from widespread voter fraud has been widely debunked by voting officials in both parties, the court system and members of Trump’s former administration. Still, Trump continues to promote such misinformation, which echoed throughout the conservative convention over the weekend.

Speaking from the main stage, Turning Point founder and CEO Charlie Kirk falsely described the conference location as “the scene of a crime.”

Pitching the conversation forward, Trump raised the possibility of election fraud this fall.

“We need to watch the vote. We need to guard the vote,” Trump charged. “It’s so corrupt, the whole election process.”

Such extreme rhetoric does not appear to have hurt Trump’s standing with Black voters.

Among Black adults, Biden’s approval has dropped from 94% when he started his term in January 2021 to just 55%, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll published in March.

About 8 in 10 Black voters have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, with roughly two-thirds saying they have a “very unfavorable” view of him, according to an AP-NORC poll conducted in June.

Trump won 8% of the Black vote in 2020, according to AP VoteCast. And in what is expected to be a close election, even a modest shift could be consequential.

Omar Mitchell, a Detroit restaurant owner who participated in the church gathering, said he supports Trump because “money was pumping” when he was president.

“In the old days, how we grew up was just because you’re Black means you’re a Democrat,” Mitchell said. “That’s out the door nowadays.”

Trump argues he can pull in more Black voters due to his economic and border security message, and that his felony indictments make him more relatable. At the church on Saturday afternoon, he repeatedly vowed to “bring back the auto industry” while also noting, “The crime is most rampant right here and African American communities.”

Kimberly Taylor, who was invited on stage at the church by the Trump campaign, thanked Trump for “coming to the hood,” while pastor Lorenzo Sewell said Biden attended an NAACP dinner in the city “but never came to the hood.”

The pastor asked Trump how to “keep the Black dollar in the Black community.”

The Black community, Trump said, “needs to stop the crime.”

___

Associated Press writers Will Weissert and Linley Sanders in Washington contributed to this report.

United States News

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Trump blasts immigrants for taking jobs as he courts voters at a Black church, MAGA event in Detroit