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Trump escalates immigration rhetoric, accusing Biden of causing border ‘bloodbath’

Law enforcement officials stand onstage with former President Trump at a campaign event.
Former President Trump speaks Tuesday at a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Mich.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
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Donald Trump has escalated his inflammatory rhetoric about immigration, accusing President Biden of unleashing a “bloodbath” at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump has previously accused migrants of “poisoning the blood of the country” and vowed to launch the largest deportation operation in the nation’s history if he wins a second term. His latest comments came as he campaigned Tuesday in two Midwestern swing states likely to be key to the outcome of the 2024 election.

In Michigan, he referred to immigrants in the U.S. illegally who are suspected of committing crimes as “animals,” using dehumanizing language that those who study extremism warn increases the risk of violence.

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“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, according to the FBI, Trump and other Republicans have seized on several high-profile crimes alleged to have been committed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Polls suggest many prospective voters are concerned about the impact of border crossings.

Immigration enforcement has long been the domain of the federal government. Texas is trying to change that.

March 27, 2024

Alyssa Bradley, the Biden campaign’s Michigan communications director, has accused Trump of politicizing tragedies and trying to “sow hate and division to hide from his own record of failing Michiganders.”

Trump continued the theme at a rally in Green Bay, Wis., on 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.

Trump also focused on the killing of Ruby Garcia, a Michigan woman who was found dead March 22 on the side of a Grand Rapids highway. 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.

In Ohio campaigning with a GOP Senate hopeful, the former president warns of a “bloodbath” if he loses in November, and claims he — not Biden — will protect Social Security.

March 16, 2024

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 after a drunken driving arrest. He does not have an attorney listed in court records.

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Garcia’s sister, Mavi, disputed Trump’s assertion Tuesday that he had spoken to members of her family, according to FOX 17.

“No, he did not speak with us,” FOX 17 said she told them in a text message, declining to comment further.

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

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 Customs and Border Protection personnel, in addition to other restrictions on immigration .

“There was a solution on the table,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. ”It was actually the former president that encouraged Republicans to walk away from getting it done.”

“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.”

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Trump on Tuesday also 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 that 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 to enter the venue. In Grand Rapids, more than 100 supporters stood in 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.”

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Associated Press writer Cappelletti reported from Grand Rapids, Gomez Licon from Green Bay and Colvin from New York. AP writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.

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