Throughout his four years in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump’s relationship with the Texas-Mexico border has been fraught with frustration, confusion, some successes. But it’s also complicated.
Prior to him being elected president in 2016, Trump used illegal immigration enforcement as one of the primary speaking points of his campaign. It was essential to catapulting him to the top of the GOP ticket, and the centerpiece of his illegal immigration platform was Trump’s border wall.
As Trump enters the final days of his presidency, he is visiting the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday afternoon to tout what his office describes as accomplishments in building some sections of border wall. The president’s visit comes nearly a week after one of the most tumultuous moments in the country’s history, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., many of whom have told federal investigators they did so at Trump’s request.
Trump’s visit to the Rio Grande Valley, which local officials say they were not briefed on at all, will be his second of his presidency. He visited in 2019 in an effort to secure funding for the wall. At the time, Trump and Congress were at a stalemate over funding which led to a 35-day government shutdown.
During his campaign, Trump said he would make Mexico pay for the wall, but construction ultimately came out of the pockets of U.S. taxpayers. His visit drew protests from his opponents and praise from his supporters in the Valley.
For two years, Trump said migrant caravans with violent offenders were making their way to the U.S southern border from Central America and the wall was best form of protection for the country.
Before the president exits office, the administration is looking to award more border wall contracts and the Dept. of Homeland Security has said construction of the wall has been “historic.”
The wall is not the only controversial topic that Trump has faced on the Texas-Mexico border, and which has helped define his presidency.
In 2018, Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and the separation of thousands of migrant parents from their children set off an firestorm.
It launched the phrase “kids in cages,” hung around Trump’s neck, onto an international stage and was a major part of a heated second presidential debate.
Trump accurately stated that the Obama administration built the “cages,” but President-Elect Joe Biden responded correctly by saying the previous administration never systematically separated parents from their children at the border.
In El Paso, the state’s largest border city, many Democratic lawmakers blasted the president’s illegal immigration rhetoric as a major reason behind the mass shooting in August of 2019 that killed 23 people and injured close to two dozen more.
The shooter, Patrick Crusius, told authorities he was specifically targeting Mexicans. The Associated Press reported that Crusius posted a racist screed online that featured similarities to Trump’s divisive and inflammatory statements on illegal immigration, but Crusius said his personal views predated Trump’s public stances on illegal immigration.
El Paso has also been ground zero for the debate over immigration. It has been the center of the migrant crisis with thousands of people seeking asylum after fleeing violence in their home countries.
Reports recently resurfaced that the Trump campaign still owed the City of El Paso more than a half a million dollars after he held a rally there in February 2019.
The city spent $470,000 in security and other related expenses and the city has now tacked on another $99,000 after Trump’s campaign reportedly did not pay the bill.
Despite these controversies that have loomed during his presidency, Trump did very well in this year’s election in numerous border counties, many of which would prefer stricter immigration laws.
The Texas Tribune reported that in 28 South Texas or border counties, Biden won by a combined 17 percentage points over Trump compared to Hillary Clinton’s 33-point margin of victory in 2016 in those same counties.
In the four southernmost Rio Grande Valley counties, Biden won by 15 points after Clinton won them by 39 in 2016.
The most shocking result was in Zapata County, which Trump flipped from blue to red for the first time in nearly a century. Clinton won Zapata County by 33 points in 2016.
Trump has clearly made significant inroads with Hispanic voters in South Texas.
With the Hispanic population booming in Texas and demographics shifting yearly, the battle for voters on border and immigration policy will continue to be on the forefront after Trump has left office.