Greg Abbott's Border Wall Pushes Democrats and Activists to Stop Ignoring Trump

Many people in Democratic politics have taken the 'hear no evil, see no evil' approach of ignoring former president Donald Trump, who has been banished from top social media networks and has largely receded from public view.

But his return to the Texas border June 30 to hit Democrats on his pet issue has animated former foes both nationally and in Texas.

At the invitation of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Trump will go to the border to rail on immigration, the issue that launched his political career. Abbott, who last week announced plans to build a crowdfunded Texas border wall with a $250 million "down payment" from the state budget, is up for reelection next year, and is seen as positioning himself for a run for the presidency.

Previewing the trip in a statement, Trump charged that "Biden and Harris won't even tour the scenes of the wreckage they created, or come down and visit with the Border Patrol and ICE heroes risking their lives to defend our nation."

He added that what they have done is a "grave dereliction of duty," and said that his visit could hopefully "shine a spotlight on these crimes" against the country.

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) president Domingo Garcia, who hails from Texas, said Trump's return to political events to antagonize Democrats and demonize immigrants cannot be ignored given the frenzied political climate.

"He raised the ugly flag of anti-immigration divisiveness and tribal politics that is festering still, and we need to put a stake through it," Garcia told Newsweek, likening Trump's rhetoric to "Freddy Krueger running around slashing people."

Part of that fighting back includes protests on June 30 by LULAC, which was formed in Texas almost a century ago, and currently has 37,000 members in the state. Garcia said they are in the planning stages, and formal plans will be announced once the organization receives more information about where Trump will be and where they can safely protest, given fears over violence from his supporters.

La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a Rio Grande Valley institution founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, will also be protesting Trump on June 30, along with the Texas Civil Rights Project and Battleground Texas, Newsweek has learned.

Mario Carillo, a veteran activist from Texas, who is the campaign manager for the immigrant advocacy organization America's Voice, said his group will take their guidance from border communities.

He told Newsweek that America's Voice intends to push back on Trump's visit by reminding people of the "ugliness" and "cruelty" of his administration, which he said started along the border, with Trump casting it as a violent and lawless place that those who have lived there "know not to be true."

"It does feel a bit like post-traumatic stress for him to go to one of the places where he wreaked the most havoc," Carillo said. "It's disappointing, but not surprising."

But some Texas Democrats and national groups feel that Trump is mostly a distraction, and Abbott's election year political posturing is the real danger.

"Trump is grasping for political relevancy, he doesn't have his social media accounts, he's not in elected office," said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, a former Democratic Senate candidate and the executive director of NextGen America, which does youth advocacy around the country.

But she said Abbott is "playing with the lives of millions of people" by focusing on a border wall when the power grid needs attention, and it was just earlier this year that frozen pipes were bursting during the Texas power crisis.

"The person we're looking to focus on to oppose is Abbott because he's the one up for election, but Trump going to the border is bad because he's going to ignite hate," Voto Latino co-founder Maria Teresa Kumar told Newsweek.

When it comes to anti-immigrant language that veers into anti-Mexican and anti-Hispanic talk of an "invasion" of Texas, some groups say the messengers are bad, but the message is worse.

Such language was used by Texas Republican officials as well as Trump before the El Paso hate crime shooting in 2019, where the shooter's manifesto said, "This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." The rhetoric was used again last week by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick at the press conference announcing Abbott's border wall plans.

"We are being invaded," Patrick said. "That term has been used in the past, but it has never been more true."

In 2019, Abbott shied away from "invasion" rhetoric concerning the events in El Paso, saying that "mistakes were made" in a fundraising appeal sent the day before the shooting, which included a call to "defend" the Texas border. But those days appear over, with an election looming, Democrats said, after he declared "homes are being invaded" during his press conference last week.

After the return of "invasion" rhetoric, Representative Veronica Escobar wrote that Patrick and Abbott were on notice.

"If people die again, blood will be on your hands," she tweeted.

Other activists echoed her concern.

"This is a dangerous development," said Charles Kamasaki, a senior cabinet advisor for UnidosUS, one of the oldest Latino civil rights groups in the country, told Newsweek. "Not just Trump going to the border, but Abbott and others talking about building a wall after renouncing invasion talk years ago."

The group said it conducted polling and research to craft a message to parts of Trump's base that the "growth of the Latino community is not an existential threat to them." Its polling showed support for enforcement coupled with generous policies towards immigrants.

UnidosUS said it is ready to allocate resources to the effort, which would include not only "country-club Republicans" but also Texas Latinos along the border who supported Trump at higher levels than expected.

Tory Gavito, the co-founder and president of Way to Win, which works to turn Texas blue, said the headline of recent research by her group of "the elusive Clinton to Trump" Latino voter could be "What Have You Done For Us Lately?"

"Trump and Abbott are tapping into a frustration and feeling that Democrats have to deliver," she said, noting that Democratic messengers have to care more about effectively sharing their ideas and what they stand for.

Trying to forget about Trump while he has been holed up in Mar-a-Lago planning his return to the public eye has made sense so far, Democrats said, but that time is over as he again amplifies his hardline immigration views and uses the issue as a cudgel against the Biden administration.

"Ignoring Trump is impossible to do because a lot of the Republicans up for election are trying to do their best Trump impression," Carillo said, noting that Abbott signed "constitutional carry" into law, which allows Texans to carry handguns without a license or training starting on September 1.

"It seems like a dangerous time when you add that law and the 'invasion' rhetoric on top of that," Carillo concluded. "So we have to acknowledge the effect Trump has had on Republicans because we feel it every day with Abbott and Patrick."

abbott trump
Previewing his trip to the Texas border in a statement, former-President Donald Trump charged that "Biden and Harris won't even tour the scenes of the wreckage they created." In this photo, then-President Trump shakes hands with Texas Governor Greg Abbott as he steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas, on April 10, 2019. JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images/Jim WATSON / AFP

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