Trump Uses First Campaign Stop Since Conviction to Highlight Border Security

The former president contrasted his record on immigration with that of the Biden administration.
Trump Uses First Campaign Stop Since Conviction to Highlight Border Security
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a Turning Point PAC town hall at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Ariz., on June 6, 2024. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Lawrence Wilson

Former President Donald Trump used his first campaign appearance since the conclusion of his criminal trial in New York to emphasize his proposed policies for dealing with illegal immigration swiftly and strongly, comparing the current border crisis to an invasion and its impact on the country as comparable to war.

The remarks came at a town hall meeting in Phoenix on June 6, during which President Trump vowed to “shift massive portions” of federal agencies to immigration enforcement duties if elected to the White House in November.

Arizona is a critical battleground state. President Biden won it by some 10,000 votes in 2020. It is one of two states where the margin of victory was less than a half percentage point, Georgia being the other.

In the days ahead of the town hall meeting, Biden allies in Arizona reminded constituents that President Trump was responsible for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, opening the door for a restrictive state abortion law to take effect.

President Trump did not mention abortion during his remarks, focusing nearly all his attention on border security.

Immigration Then and Now

“In 2016, I ran largely on the border, which was really bad. I fixed it,” President Trump said, citing various policies he implemented, including the Remain in Mexico policy and adding to the border wall.

President Trump dismissed President Biden’s new executive order that will shut down asylum requests at the southern border once the average number of daily encounters exceeds 2,500. The border will remain shut until that daily average stays below 1,500 for at least a week.

In announcing that policy change on June 4, the White House issued a statement saying, “President Biden believes we must secure our border. That is why today, he announced executive actions to bar migrants who cross our Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum.”

President Trump, at one point, called Joe “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio to the podium, the controversial former sheriff of Maricopa County, a large territory including Phoenix and surrounding areas.

Mr. Arpaio drew criticism for what were perceived as harsh tactics, including the use of tents as an annex to house prisoners, the use of chain gangs, and the creation of an armed posse in 2010 to assist deputies in enforcing immigration law. The posse was disbanded after the county lost authority to enforce immigration due to a federal court order.

Mr. Arpaio spoke fondly of President Trump, calling him “the only hero I ever had in my life.”

Concluding remarks on the border, President Trump said, “We’re gonna get it back to common sense. We’re gonna have law and order.”

This approach contrasts sharply with that of President Biden, whose immigration policy has sought to emphasize the humane treatment of asylum seekers, keeping immigrant families together, and creating a legal pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

Impact on Society

“Our country is going to hell, and we’re going to stop it,” President Trump said of the impact of immigrants on the nation’s education and healthcare systems and on public safety.

He cited high-profile cases in which illegal immigrants allegedly committed shocking crimes, including the shooting of two New York City police officers in Queens on June 3, the kidnapping and sexual assault of a child in Palm Beach County, Florida, in May, and the murder of 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley in Georgia in February.

President Trump claimed the number of deaths resulting from drug and human trafficking across the southern border is comparable to those inflicted through armed conflict. “We lost last year, in my opinion, 300,000 people. That’s bigger than a war,” he said, though he did not explain how that number was derived.

Referring to the illegal drug trade, President Trump said, “You'll never solve the problem without the death penalty.”

Friendly Questions

Following his prepared—and extensive off-the-cuff—remarks, President Trump took questions from the capacity crowd at the Phoenix campus of Dream City Church, listed as the 24th largest congregation in the country by Lifeway Research.

Many of the attendees had waited outdoors for several hours in temperatures approaching 100 degrees to see the presidential candidate.

Though President Trump said he would welcome any question, all the questions from supporters in this highly sympathetic crowd were friendly, and many teed up President Trump’s response.

President Trump generally responded to questions by offering broad policy directions rather than stating detailed policies.

About struggling rural hospitals, “We’re gonna be helping rural America,” President Trump said. “We’ll get it done.”

Regarding the refusal of some countries to accept deportees, “We’re going to stop that.”

He repeated a number of promises that he’s made in the past, including bolstering law enforcement, securing the border, bringing down interest rates, increasing oil production, and reestablishing American leadership on the international stage without engaging directly in armed conflict.