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Trump Dehumanizes Migrants in Border Remarks

The former president has tried to stoke fear around immigration and border security throughout his 2024 campaign, as he has done in the past.

Former President Donald J. Trump held an event in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Tuesday, where he repeatedly used inflammatory language to criticize President Biden’s immigration policies.Credit...Nic Antaya for The New York Times

Michael Gold reported from Green Bay, Wis., and Anjali Huynh from Grand Rapids, Mich.

April 2, 2024

Former President Donald J. Trump again cast President Biden’s immigration record in violent and ominous terms on Tuesday, accusing him in two speeches in battleground states of creating a “border blood bath” and once more using dehumanizing language to describe some migrants entering the country illegally.

In a speech in Grand Rapids, Mich., Mr. Trump, flanked by law enforcement officers, reiterated his baseless claim that other countries were sending “prisoners, murderers, drug dealers, mental patients and terrorists, the worst they have” to the United States. Immigration officials have said that most of the people crossing the border are members of vulnerable families escaping poverty and violence.

Mr. Trump also used his speech, which lasted roughly 45 minutes, to defend his use of dehumanizing language to refer to immigrants accused of crimes. After referring to the man who the authorities say killed a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia in February, Mr. Trump said: “Democrats said please don’t call them ‘animals.’ I said, no, they’re not humans, they’re animals.”

Mr. Trump drew attention last month when, while discussing the U.S. auto industry, he predicted a “blood bath for the country” should he lose in November. After critics accused him of stoking violence, Mr. Trump and his allies pointed back to Mr. Biden, insisting he was responsible for a “blood bath” because of his immigration policies.

The former president has repeatedly criticized Mr. Biden, accusing him of maintaining lax border security that he blames for violent crime, though available data does not support the idea that migrants are contributing to increases in crime.

Mr. Trump’s campaign appears to be trying to turn “blood bath” into a catchphrase, essentially trolling his critics and shifting the focus to Mr. Biden. On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee, which the Trump campaign now effectively controls, introduced a website,, that mirrors Mr. Trump’s argument that Mr. Biden is responsible for an “invasion” at the United States’ border with Mexico. The site highlights a number of violent crimes in which undocumented immigrants have been accused.

But his remarks in Michigan and at a rally later in Green Bay, Wis., also demonstrated how the former president has tried to stoke fears around immigration and border security in the 2024 election, a tactic he used effectively in 2016. Republicans have been eager to keep the issue at the top of voters’ minds in a bid to chip away at Mr. Biden’s support.

“This is country-changing, it’s country-threatening, and it’s country-wrecking,” Mr. Trump said in Michigan of migrants crossing the southern border. “They have wrecked our country.”

Democrats have pushed back against that framing. Ahead of Mr. Trump’s visit, the Democratic National Committee put up billboards near Grand Rapids referring to a bipartisan border bill that fell apart in the Senate after Mr. Trump pressed Republicans to block it. The billboards claimed that “Donald Trump broke the border” and that the former president wanted only “chaos, not solutions.”

Mr. Trump’s speeches in both states were his first campaign events after a weekslong break from the trail, during which he raised money, contended with legal issues and blasted his political and legal opponents on social media.

Mr. Trump has seized on high-profile crimes involving immigrants to try to make inroads in key battleground states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, connecting the influx of migrants at the southern border to states hundreds of miles away.

On Tuesday, he said that “once peaceful suburban Michigan” was coming “under an invasion” and spoke of the recent killing of Ruby Garcia, who was found dead on the side of a highway in Grand Rapids last month. The authorities have said that Ms. Garcia was dating the man accused of killing her, who entered the country illegally as a child and was deported to Mexico in 2020.

Michigan Democrats blasted Mr. Trump’s references to Ms. Garcia in remarks before his appearance. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, said Mr. Trump was “exploiting” Ms. Garcia’s death and called his response “shameful.” And while Mr. Trump said in Michigan that he had spoken with some of Ms. Garcia’s family, her sister told a local television station that Mr. Trump “did not speak with us.”

Ahead of Mr. Trump’s speech in Michigan, his campaign handed out packets to reporters that highlighted other people who the campaign said had been affected by crimes involving undocumented immigrants. They included Laken Riley, the Georgia nursing student whose death has become a flashpoint among Republicans. The authorities say Ms. Riley was killed by a Venezuelan migrant who had entered the country illegally.

Pete Hoekstra, the chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said that “it’s clear immigration and the economy are going to dominate the debate here in Michigan.” He added that he believed voters in the state “look at what’s happening on the border, and it’s hard for them to believe exactly what they’re seeing, that there’s no rule of law.”

Both Michigan and Wisconsin were part of the so-called blue wall that Democrats had counted on for two decades before the 2016 race, when Mr. Trump won over working-class white voters who are key parts of the electorate in both states.

Mr. Biden won both states in 2020, although Mr. Trump falsely claimed during his rally in Wisconsin, which held its presidential primaries on Tuesday, that he had won there “by a lot” and insisted that the election had been stolen from him.

Democrats also won governors’ races in both states in 2018 and defended their seats in 2022, in part by making protecting abortion access central to their races.

The party continued its efforts on Tuesday to make abortion rights a key campaign issue. Though Mr. Biden did not hold public campaign events, his campaign seized on a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court on Monday that allowed the state’s six-week abortion ban but also put abortion access on the ballot there this fall.

There is little indication that Mr. Biden will devote significant time and resources to competing in Florida. But his campaign released a television ad that it plans to run in battleground states — including Michigan and Wisconsin — that attacked Mr. Trump for statements claiming credit for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022.

A senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Brian Hughes, addressed the ruling in Florida, saying in a statement that Mr. Trump supports states’ rights and thinks “voters should have the last word.”

Mr. Trump did not mention abortion, or his role in appointing three of the Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe, at either event. But after his remarks in Michigan, he responded to a reporter’s question about the Florida ruling by saying that his campaign would “be making a statement next week” on abortion.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, Aida Ross, said in a statement: “We don’t need to wait until next week to know where Donald Trump stands on abortion — he has been peddling the same anti-choice extremism for years.”

Reid J. Epstein contributed reporting from Washington.


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