Trump’s farewell trip to Texas draws cheers and jeers, focus on border security

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President Trump is making his first public appearance since the riot on Capitol Hill last week today in Alamo, Texas. No, it’s not the Alamo but perhaps the trip’s destination is a symbolic nod. Trump is expected to make remarks on border security and immigration at the southern border. He will point to border wall construction as an important part of his legacy.

With only eight days left in his presidency, it should be a priority with Trump to focus on highlighting the successes of his term in office instead of dwelling on the election. As a Republican president, Trump has many conservative policies and actions to tout. I don’t know what his speech will be during his stop in Alamo, a town in the Rio Grande Valley (the Alamo is in San Antonio), a gateway to Mexico due to its location near one of the bridges that connect Texas with Mexico. I hope he sticks with talking about the successful agreements forged with Mexico and Central American countries to quell the rush of immigrants to the border. He can even point to winning a Supreme Court decision in favor of border wall funding, thanks to a conservative majority on the court. Trump’s Supreme Court appointments are a huge accomplishment, likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future unless the far-left has its way and packs the court during the Biden administration. We already know that Biden has pledged to stop the construction of the border wall, though he stops short of saying he will tear it down.

At last count, some 452 miles has been built. About 12 miles of that is along segments of the border without any barrier before. The rest replaces shorter and less sturdy barrier.

The project has cost $15 billion so far, just $4.5 billion of that provided by Congress. Trump diverted the rest from the military budget when lawmakers balked at full funding.

It’s not quite the “big, beautiful wall” he promised during the 2016 campaign when he suggested that nearly all of the 1,954-mile frontier would be walled off. By the time he leaves office, it will be about 40% fenced. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to halt construction, though he won’t dismantle whatever the Trump administration leaves behind.

The news of Trump’s trip to the border has garnered mixed reviews. Two of his most loyal supporters, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick will not be available to welcome the president to Texas, as they normally would. Today is the opening day of the 2021 Legislature so they both will be in Austin. Judd Deere, a White House spokesman said Sunday that the president is going “to mark the completion of more than 400 miles of border wall — a promise made, promise kept — and his Administration’s efforts to reform our broken immigration system.”

It is unclear if the Biden administration will devote the resources necessary for surveillance and the manpower needed to allow the system with the border wall now in place to work. Biden has spoken of many open border policies he will move on – sweeping amnesty for illegal immigrants, stopping deportations, ending detentions at the border, for example – so there is little hope he is serious about border security.

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There are plenty of critics voicing opposition to the president’s visit. The national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is one. Another is Democrat Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen.

“He now wants to gloat one last time about hundreds of miles of border wall built at the expense of American taxpayers, including the very Latinos he called criminals, rapists and drug traffickers,” said Domingo Garcia of Dallas, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, which accused Trump of “using the border as his final backdrop this week to end his failed administration by again stirring racial hatred and xenophobia with his lies.”

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, a Democrat whose district includes part of Alamo, blasted Trump as a “modern day traitor” for inciting the mob that invaded the halls of Congress last Wednesday hoping to halt the Electoral College review. The border visit, he said, is an attempt to “distract and deceive the American people on the taxpayers’ dime.”

“Do not be fooled: President Trump does not care about the people of South Texas, this country, or the rule of law. This individual fomented an attack on the United States Capitol and American democracy,” he said,

Failed presidential candidate Julian Castro weighed in with standard hateful rhetoric – Trump’s a white nationalist, you know. Rep. Henry Cuellar weighed in on Twitter.

“Trump started his campaign with lies to stir up white nationalism and incite hate towards immigrants,” Castro said on Sunday. “He’s ending his presidency the same way. The past four years, we’ve seen just how dangerous and destructive this playbook can become, and communities along our southern border have seen that destruction first hand.”

Alamo, Texas is located in Hidalgo County. The county is a hot spot for coronavirus outbreaks and tightened restrictions are in place. It’s not clear but I assume Trump’s visit will be a photo op and his audience on the ground will be local Republican supporters but not a rally event.

Robert Peña, director with the Republican Alliance of El Paso, lauded Trump’s trip to Alamo and expects the support for the outgoing president will remain long after his term ends Jan. 20.

“Half the country voted for him,” Peña said, adding that the visit should remind Biden “not to open the flood gates. We need to keep the country safe.”

Pro-Trump supporters were organizing Sunday to greet the president at the airport and at the border wall.

“Everyone is excited to have him,” said Mayra Flores, a Hidalgo County GOP organizer behind flag-waving caravans known as “Trump trains.” “You saw the tremendous support he got from South Texas, though it surprised some.”

A petition was put online to encourage locals to cancel Trump’s visit. The mayors of Alamo and McAllen as well as the sheriff of Hidalgo County were encouraged to oppose Trump’s visit on social media. So far, I’ve only seen a brief statement from the mayor of McAllen on Twitter as I write this Tuesday morning. It’s a mixed bag for President Trump but this kind of visit is a good start to pivoting to touting his accomplishments and putting his legacy ahead of day to day political discourse.

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