Trump warns of dan­ger (and plight) of mi­grants

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Michael D. Shear and Syd­ney Em­ber

SAN AN­TO­NIO – Pres­i­dent Trump used the back­drop of a Texas fundraiser Wed­nes­day to warn of the dan­gers and tragedy of mi­grants flow­ing across the Mex­i­can border – an is­sue he pre­dicted would play well for him in his 2020 re-elec­tion cam­paign.

With high-dol­lar donors stand­ing be­hind him, Trump said mi­grants pour­ing across the border with Mex­ico were dy­ing in great num­bers while gang mem­bers ar­riv­ing from Cen­tral Amer­ica were ma­raud­ing and threat­en­ing Amer­i­can ranch­ers.

And he made clear that he was go­ing to try to put the blame on Democrats.

“I think they’re go­ing to pay a very big price in 2020,” Trump said here, be­fore head­ing to Hous­ton for an­other fundraiser.

“I think the border is go­ing to be an in­cred­i­ble is­sue. And they’re on the wrong side. They want to have open bor­ders.”

But Ju­lian Cas­tro, the former mayor of San An­to­nio and a Demo­cratic can­di­date for pres­i­dent, fired back at Trump, ac­cus­ing him of us­ing such talk as a po­lit­i­cal tool to en­er­gize his vot­ers with dark threats about im­mi­grants.

“It was pre­dictable that he would start beat­ing the drum of this again as he gets closer to re-elec­tion,” Cas­tro said in an in­ter­view. “What I’ve no­ticed is that any­time he gets into po­lit­i­cal hot water, he goes back to the is­sue of im­mi­gra­tion to drum up sup­port.”

Cas­tro, who served as hous­ing sec­re­tary in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, is uniquely po­si­tioned to take on Trump on the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue.

The grand­son of a Mex­i­can im­mi­grant, he is the only Latino can­di­date in the race for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

He planned to speak at a rally Wed­nes­day night that was billed by his cam­paign as an op­por­tu­nity for San An­to­nio, with its sig­nif­i­cant Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion, to show its re­sis­tance to Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

The pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to weigh in on the border was a clear sig­nal that he did not in­tend to let the is­sue fade any time soon.

At the fundraiser, he told re­porters that he wanted to call at­ten­tion to a sit­u­a­tion that he said has been ig­nored in the me­dia: the plight of mi­grants who cross il­le­gally into the United States and then die of thirst or hunger.

“This doesn’t come out in the fake news,” Trump said as he re­counted the sto­ries about mi­grants that about a dozen donors told him. At Trump’s urg­ing, sev­eral of the donors de­scribed find­ing the bod­ies of mi­grants – in­clud­ing preg­nant women and chil­dren – in the vast brush of their prop­erty.

The pres­i­dent said he had never heard such sto­ries of mi­grants dy­ing, even from his top im­mi­gra­tion and border pa­trol of­fi­cials.

In fact, im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates have for years doc­u­mented the grim fate of some mi­grants who grow sick and die try­ing to make it into the United States.

The ad­vo­cates say Trump’s poli­cies have made the prob­lem worse by lim­it­ing the num­ber of mi­grants who can legally claim asy­lum at ports of en­try, push­ing more to cross at re­mote ar­eas of the border.

Sev­eral of the donors also told of how afraid they had felt when mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica, dressed in black, turned up at their homes.

“Dan­ger­ous peo­ple are com­ing here and the good peo­ple are dy­ing,” Trump said, adding that the donors had all told him that the an­swer to the prob­lem was to build the wall that has be­come the sym­bol of his ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion.

The pres­i­dent, who was joined at the round ta­ble with donors by Brad Parscale, his 2020 cam­paign man­ager, de­nied that the un­sched­uled re­marks to re­porters about the border were part of a cam­paign mes­sage. But im­mi­gra­tion and border se­cu­rity has been a defin­ing is­sue of his pres­i­dency. And Trump is bet­ting that por­tray­ing the cri­sis that he says now ex­ists on the Mex­i­can border will be just as ef­fec­tive in his re-elec­tion cam­paign as the is­sue was in 2016.

As he sets out for the re-elec­tion cam­paign, Trump is cer­tain to face sev­eral chal­lengers among the Democrats who are de­ter­mined to make the pres­i­dent’s im­mi­gra­tion agenda a key part of their rea­son for run­ning. In Fe­bru­ary, Beto O’Rourke, a former con­gress­man from El Paso who has since de­clared his own can­di­dacy for pres­i­dent, out­lined his op­po­si­tion to Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies at a rally held at the same time the pres­i­dent spoke in that Texas border city.

“We are not safe be­cause of walls but in spite of walls,” O’Rourke told sup­port­ers even as Trump was press­ing to “fin­ish the wall.”

The dual can­di­da­cies of Cas­tro and O’Rourke are al­most cer­tain to place Texas squarely at the cen­ter of the in­creas­ingly heated im­mi­gra­tion de­bate.

“Texas is a Latino state, and we have two Tex­ans on the bal­lot who are go­ing to be turn­ing out and gal­va­niz­ing peo­ple from Texas,” said Mayra Ma­cias, vice pres­i­dent of the Latino Vic­tory Pro­ject.

“But it’s also help­ing gal­va­nize peo­ple, Lati­nos in par­tic­u­lar, across the coun­try be­cause they are see­ing these can­di­dates talk about is­sues that af­fect us.”

But if im­mi­gra­tion is at once a key cam­paign is­sue in Texas, and other states in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia and Ari­zona, Repub­li­cans are bet­ting that Trump’s anti-im­mi­grant mes­sage will also res­onate far from the south­ern border.

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