McALLEN, Texas — Former President Donald Trump returned to the US-Mexico border Wednesday for the first time since he left office and accused President Biden of inciting this year’s historic surge of illegal immigration, saying the crisis might have been averted if Biden had just done nothing to overturn Trump’s hardline policies.
“We had it down to a point that we’d never seen anything like it … We had it down to really a science. It was down to a point where people just weren’t getting in unless they came in legally,” Trump said at a press briefing with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican.
“We built a wall that was not penetrable and we were just about finished. And then we had an election where we did much better than we did the first time. And amazingly, we lost.”
Trump said that if Biden and his officials “went to the beach and did nothing, they would have been fine.”
Although Biden has urged potential migrants not to illegally cross the border, some migrants say they were inspired by his rhetoric and lax policies.
Biden campaigned on welcoming Central American asylum seekers and is backing bills to legalize most illegal immigrants. He also canceled construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and ended his “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required Central Americans to remain in Mexico while US courts reviewed claims of persecution.
Trump huddled with Abbott and members of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in Congress, before visiting the border.
Trump slammed the Biden administration for, among other things, failing to paint his border wall, which he said could cause it to rust.
“They’re supposed to paint the wall and they aren’t even doing that. They got to get a coat of paint on the wall. Believe it or not, it does rust. Maybe that’s what they liked, let it rust,” Trump said.
Biden has not yet visited the border as president.
The number of US-Mexico border detentions hit a 21-year monthly high of more than 180,000 in May. Nearly 179,000 people were detained in April and more than 173,000 were intercepted in March.
McAllen is one of the most popular illegal crossing areas — and leaders of the Border Patrol’s labor union slammed Vice President Kamala Harris last week for visiting the relatively well-secured El Paso area instead of McAllen.
About two dozen Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, toured La Joya, a town on the banks of the Rio Grande, on Tuesday night ahead of Trump’s visit. The Post joined lawmakers who trekked through mud to see the partially built border wall and talk with migrants in handcuffs.
Critics accuse Biden of creating new “pull” factors that are luring hundreds of thousands of migrants to the country — a stance notably taken by Guatemala’s president and Mexico’s president. But Democrats emphasize “push” factors such as corruption, poverty and gang violence in Latin America.
Harris abruptly visited El Paso on Friday after Trump announced he would be visiting the border to attack the policies of the Biden-Harris administration. Biden tapped Harris in March to stem the flow of migrants, but her trip this month to Guatemala and Mexico to address the “root causes” of migration was overshadowed by her struggle to answer questions about why she hadn’t visited the border.
Texas Democrats blasted Abbott for inviting Trump to the border.
Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), who represents McAllen, said it was “nothing short of a slap in the face to South Texans.”
Gonzales said that “wasting taxpayer dollars to promote the construction of a border wall instead of correcting the failed electrical grid is bad leadership that is further putting Texans’ lives at risk.”
Gonzales added, “We must look at the three Central American countries people are coming from and make surgical investments that will provide jobs, security and prosperity to encourage migrants to stay home.”
Another South Texas Democrat, Rep. Filemon Vela, said, “Governor Abbott is creating a distracting media circus with a failed former president.”
Vela insisted that “the narrative of a violent and insecure border region is blatantly false. The border is not a war zone, and the wall Abbott and Trump are trying to get Texans to pay for is not only a waste of their hard-earned money but also an un-American symbol of hatred that separates and intimidates our communities, harms our wildlife, and encroaches on landowner rights.”