AUSTIN, Texas - Former President Donald Trump paid a visit to Texas Wednesday, joining Gov. Greg Abbott in a joint visit to the southern border. It came just days after Vice President Kamala Harris made her first visit to the border since taking office.
Abbott and Trump were in the Rio Grande Valley visiting the border in Hidalgo County. It is an area with a high number of border crossings, and one that many criticized Harris for not visiting during her trip to the border.
The governor and the former president were joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, alongside a group of House Republicans.
Speaking to a crowd of Republican supporters in front of an unfinished section of the wall near McAllen, Abbott and Trump sharply criticized the Biden administration over its handling of immigration and the border.
Looking at Abbott, Trump said, "They're saying that the unsafe border is your fault, can you believe this. Because they're getting killed with the border."'
Trump lamented the fact that President Joe Biden halted construction of the wall, saying it could have been finished within two months if he had stayed in office.
"We built almost 500 miles of wall despite two and a half years of lawsuits," said Trump. "And we won the suits and we started, and within a few months you would have had the wall totally complete."
Gov. Abbott blamed what he called the Biden administration’s "open border" policy for the recent surge in migrants coming across the border. Officials say crossings in the Rio Grande Sector—where the visit was held—are up 300%. Abbott said that underscores why Biden needs to finish the wall.
"It's time to make sure we seal this border and close it down," said Abbott. "President Biden needs to start right there and finish the border wall that president trump began putting back up."
Abbott also said he will make good on his promise to have Texas complete the wall. The Governor has already announced he will use state funding and private donations to build the wall, as well as trying to use federal COVID relief money—a move Texas Democrats in Congress are trying to block. As of now, the timeline and costs of Abbott’s plans are unclear, as well as where work would begin first. There could also be court challenges from local residents and landowners along the border. Still, Abbott claims things are moving along.
"We've already begun clearing out land, acquiring land, and we're going to begin the process of putting the border wall up, just like President Trump did, just like what President Biden should be doing," said Abbott.
Before the visit to the wall, Abbott and Trump held a briefing in Weslaco with border patrol and local law enforcement about border security and the immigration crisis. Officials described a surge in drugs coming across the border—including the often-deadly opioid fentanyl.
Texas Democrats are slamming Abbott and Trump’s border visit. In a tweet, Rep. Lloyd Doggett called the visit a political stunt, saying "How appropriate that Trump started his remarks at the border today by extolling his endorsement of Abbott. Making it clear that today's mini-Trump/Big Trump sideshow stunt is just part of Abbott's re-election circus."
Doggett and other Democratic members of Congress from Texas have also written a letter urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to block Abbott from diverting federal COVID relief money to fund it.
At a press conference at the Texas Capitol Wednesday, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Mike Collier accused Trump and Abbott of playing politics and "conning" the public, rather than truly addressing the issue of immigration.
Gov. Abbott has already directed $250 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to be used for the wall, in addition to private donations that have been made so far.
St. Edward’s political science professor Dr. Brian Smith spoke to FOX 7 Austin and said he didn't see Wednesday’s visit leading to any real progress on fixing immigration.
"I think this is a lot of posturing, photo opportunities. This is great for Governor Abbott because a Trump endorsement in 2022 is huge. We also know that for Governor Abbott, he has been really a thorn in the side of President Biden, so he’s able to keep that going. In terms of real policy, I don’t think we’re going to get anything meaningful out of it," said Smith.
Both Abbott and Trump have slammed Harris for waiting several months to visit the border, and Abbott has criticized the vice president for going to El Paso, as opposed to an area with a greater influx of migrants. Smith argues Trump and Abbott’s visit will likely put the Biden administration on the defensive when it comes to immigration.
"The Republicans—Governor Abbott, Donald Trump—have a big advantage, because it’s like baseball where you have that last at-bat. They’re going to be able to take their entire message and contrast it against the vice president. And they’re going to have a lot of ammunition to do it with because she has a trip—they’re going to use it to say this is what she didn’t address," said Smith.
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