EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Central American leaders parking airplanes on their own runways to stop the U.S. from repatriating MS-13 gang members. Fentanyl imports being a non-factor during his administration. Having such good border security that immigrants were not getting in unless they came across the border legally. Winning the 2020 election.
Those were just a few questionable statements former President Trump made Wednesday during his visit to South Texas.
Richard Pineda, director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, posited questions to consider when analyzing Trump’s points. Were those outright lies or hyperbole? Were they the ravings of a man thinking no one is checking the accuracy of his statements, or the confident swagger of a politician targeting a specific audience that already made up its mind?
Trump “can be very loose with the facts, with information,” Pineda said.
Fentanyl seizures at the border increased from 2,801 pounds in fiscal year 2019 to 4,776 pounds in FY 2020, the last full year of the Trump administration. Likewise, some 458,000 unauthorized migrants came across the border from Mexico in FY 2020. A web search found no record of the MS-13 deportation stalemate-at-airports anecdote. And, nationwide fraud in the presidential election has become such a toxic claim even some Republicans now stay away from it.
Still, Trump barrels on.
“At the heart of it there’s a salesman who’s going to sell the product no matter what it takes. He uses language to do whatever it takes to sell a policy, an idea or sell change,” Pineda said. “President Trump’s language style is really about manipulating emotion and he’s very good at manipulating populist sentiment.”
Trump was in South Texas to tour the border wall, meet with some Texas lawmen and show support for Gov. Greg Abbott’s stated objectives of building border wall and have state and local police arrest migrants on trespassing charges.
For all the exaggerated claims, the former president hammered home the point that illegal immigration and imports of the deadly drug fentanyl have skyrocketed since he left office.
National news reports quoting insiders state more than 1 million unauthorized migrants have already been apprehended since Oct. 1, 2020, and the number is on track to surpass 1.5 million by the end of FY 2021. Fentanyl seizures are up to 7,450 pounds so far this fiscal year and will likely more than double last year’s haul.
A campaign send off for Abbott
At times, Wednesday’s visit had the flair of a campaign event, with Trump praising Abbott and state Attorney General Dan Patrick for a job well done. “Great governor, great attorney general,” Trump said prior to flirting with the idea of another presidential run himself. “Do you think we should do this again? Win a third time? Maybe we don’t have to.”
That bombast and showmanship as well as the constant barbs against the Biden administration were something Abbott was counting on, Pineda said.
“The reason why he was invited to the border is the governor is taking a risk that whatever Trump says is going to be a blow to the Biden administration so it doesn’t matter if it’s accurate,” he added.
Also, Trump’s signature border security stance and tough immigration rhetoric are likely to resonate with Republican voters amid a migrant surge that continues to grow, observers said.
A recent Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll shows such issues are at the top of Texas Republican voters’ concerns, Tribune executive editor Russ Ramsey said Wednesday on KXAN. “They think it’s job No. 1 … In a political sense, it’s the beginnings of an 18-month argument into the 2022 election cycle,” he said.
Immigration advocates a day earlier had blasted Abbott for embracing a Trump-style anti-immigration agenda. They believe he’s doing that not only for votes, but to distract the public’s attention from the failure of the electrical grid during winter storms and a pro-business COVID-19 response that went against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
“From a strategic perspective, this is the absolute right play for Gov. Abbott,” Pineda said. “He’s almost guaranteed Trump is going to say some outrageous things and contrast what happened when he was in office versus (the Biden) White House. It doesn’t hurt that the White House has been sloppy in their message and the way they’re dealing with immigration. This is one of the few states where President Trump might still get national traction.”