(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Trump holds his first post-presidency campaign rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, Ohio, U.S., June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Gaelen Morse/File Photo
By Julia Harte
WESLACO, Texas (Reuters) -Former President Donald Trump, in his latest effort to regain the national spotlight, traveled to the U.S.-Mexico frontier on Wednesday to accuse President Joe Biden of neglecting national security by dismantling border controls.
Speaking alongside his fellow Republican, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Trump said his Democratic successor’s border policies had led to increased illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
“Do they really want open borders or are they incompetent?” Trump said in a speech that also revived old grievances from his time in office, including over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and questions about his mental and physical fitness while president.
Trump remains one of the most influential figures in Republican politics and has flirted with running for president again in 2024. His appearance near Weslaco at the southern tip of Texas was his second in public this week.
But he has struggled to maintain a high profile following his loss to Biden in November and after being permanently banned from Twitter and suspended for two years by Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).
An accelerating criminal investigation into his business empire could be another wrench in the works of any return to politics. The Wall Street Journal reported https://www.reuters.com/world/us/trump-organization-cfo-expected-be-charged-thursday-wsj-2021-06-30 on Wednesday that the Manhattan district attorney is expected to charge his company and its chief financial officer with tax-related crimes on Thursday.
Trump’s comments on Wednesday belied preliminary figures reported by Reuters that indicate arrests at the southwest border have risen to the highest monthly levels in two decades since Biden took office.
Illicit fentanyl, a primary driver of overdose deaths, has become steadily more available across the United States since 2014, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Since he took office in January, Biden has reversed many of Trump’s restrictive immigration policies. He halted construction of Trump’s signature border wall and ended a program that forced tens of thousands of migrants to wait in Mexico pending resolution of their U.S. asylum cases.
Republicans have blamed the increased border arrests on more welcoming policies https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-explainer/explainer-why-more-migrant-children-are-arriving-at-the-u-s-mexico-border-idUSKBN2BA11B.
They have also signaled that immigration will be a focal point of the party’s campaign to retake control of Congress from Democrats in next year’s mid-term elections.
Reuters/Ipsos polling suggests their attacks are having little effect. About 10% of 4,420 adults ranked immigration as the nation’s top priority in a June 11-17 poll, down 5 points from a similar survey in April. Among Republicans, 19% listed immigration as a top priority, down 10 points from April.
Americans’ approval of Biden’s handling of border issues is nearly unchanged over the past few months, with 47% saying they disapproved of his leadership on immigration, while 40% said they approved.
Vice President Kamala Harris, whom Biden has tasked with addressing the root causes of migration from Central America – poverty, crime, corruption, and the effects of climate change – urged officials to focus on practical solutions during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/harris-visits-us-mexico-border-amid-criticism-republicans-2021-06-25.
Democrats called on Republicans in Congress to work with them to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
“Anything less is political theater,” Democratic National Committee spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
Trump seeks spotlight at U.S.-Mexico border with attacks on Biden policies