Trump in Michigan labels flow of immigrants at southern border 'country changing'

Craig Mauger and Melissa Nann Burke, The Detroit News on

Published in Political News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Former President Donald Trump argued in Michigan on Tuesday the spike in crossings at the southern border was "country changing" and defended his use of the word "animals" to describe illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes.

“This is country changing," Trump said. "It's country threatening. And it’s country wrecking. They have wrecked our country."

Trump, a Republican, vowed to close the U.S.-Mexico border and orchestrate the largest deportation effort in the history of the nation if he wins a second term as president.

His campaign event inside a downtown Grand Rapids convention center came seven months before the November election, in which he hopes to unseat Democratic President Joe Biden. An increase in illegal crossings at the southern border has become a focus of the race.

Michigan will be among a handful of states that decide whether Biden or Trump wins. In 2020, Biden defeated Trump in Michigan by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points, 51% to 48%.

Trump said Tuesday if he doesn't win the presidency in November, it could be the "last election" the country has. It wasn't clear what he was basing that statement on.

The former president's remarks on Tuesday in Grand Rapids marked a continued escalation of his emphasis on the topic of illegal immigration, which he said was "an invasion."

Between October and February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 1.15 million encounters with migrants trying to cross the southern border, a 189% increase from the same period in late 2020 and early 2021, Trump's final months in office.

At one point, he defended his past description of migrants who commit violent crimes as "animals."

"Democrats say, 'Please, don't call them animals. They're humans.' I say no, they're not humans," Trump said. "They're not humans. They're animals."

"Nancy Pelosi told me that," Trump added, referencing the California congresswoman and former House speaker. "She said, 'Please don't use the word animals when you're talking about these people.' I said, 'I'll use the word animal because that's what they are.'"

Trump's visit came after the March 22 killing of Ruby Garcia, a 25-year-old Grand Rapids woman, whose boyfriend, Brandon Ortiz-Vite, allegedly shot her and dumped her body on the side of U.S. 131, just north of downtown Grand Rapids. Ortiz-Vite is a Mexican national who was previously deported when Trump was president, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Trump called Garcia a "beautiful young woman" and Ortiz-Vite a "monster" who had been set loose to "roam our streets."

However, Democrats on Tuesday said it’s Trump who’s to blame for the border crisis because he instructed his allies in the U.S. Senate in early February to kill bipartisan legislation to address problems at the border that had been negotiated by one of the Senate’s most stalwart conservatives over several months.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, described Garcia's death as a horrible tragedy but said that Trump and other Republicans are “hell-bent” on exploiting her death for political gain, and, “frankly, I think it's shameful.”

“There are very real security concerns at the border, and on Feb. 7 of this year, Senate Republicans had a chance to vote for a tough, effective, bipartisan bill to address those challenges. Fifty-five days later, we're still waiting that bill to pass. … (Trump) told them to stop the bill,” Stabenow said ahead of Trump's speech.

Trump spoke for about 30 minutes in Grand Rapids on Tuesday before a crowd of reporters and Republican activists and officials. The event was not open to the general public.

He also held a policy discussion with law enforcement personnel and politicians from Michigan. Trump's presidential campaign allowed some members of the media to listen in on the conversation for a few minutes.

“I think they want crime. … It doesn’t make sense what they’re doing,” Trump said about Democrats during a policy discussion with Michigan officials.

Among the participants in Trump's event were former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rogers, former Detroit police Chief James Craig, Allegan County Prosecutor Myrene Koch and Van Buren County Sheriff Dan Abbott.

Abbott said that 40% of the inmates in the jail in Van Buren County have out-of-county residences. Out of those 40%, 10% have addresses in Mexico or Guatemala, Abbott said.

"We need leadership at the national level that is willing to solve this crisis," Abbott said. "President Trump, without a doubt, is the leader we need to get the job done."


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