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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Trump again invokes ‘blood bath’ and dehumanizes migrants in border remarks

Former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, speaks at a campaign event at a convention center in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Trump returned to the campaign trail here on Tuesday, accusing President Joe Biden of fostering a “border blood bath.” (Nic Antaya/The New York Times)

By Michael Gold and Anjali Huynh

Former President Donald Trump again cast President Joe Biden’s immigration record in violent and ominous terms earlier this week, 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, Michigan, 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.

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 authorities say killed a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia in February, Trump said: “Democrats said please don’t call them ‘animals.’ I said no, they’re not humans; they’re animals.”

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, Trump and his allies pointed back to Biden, insisting he was responsible for a “blood bath” because of his immigration policies.

The former president has repeatedly criticized 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.

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

But his remarks in Michigan and at a rally later in Green Bay, Wisconsin, 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 Biden’s support.

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

Democrats have pushed back against that framing. Before 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 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.”

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.

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. Authorities have said that 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 Trump’s references to Garcia in remarks before his appearance. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Trump was “exploiting” Garcia’s death and called his response “shameful.” And while Trump said in Michigan that he had spoken with some of Garcia’s family, her sister told a local television station that Trump “did not speak with us.”

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 Trump won over working-class white voters who are key parts of the electorate in both states.

Biden won both states in 2020, although Trump falsely claimed during his rally in Wisconsin, which is holding its presidential primaries 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 Tuesday to make abortion rights a key campaign issue. Although 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 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 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 Trump supports states’ rights and thinks “voters should have the last word.”

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