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Trump in Michigan blasts ‘border bloodbath.' Here are the facts

donald trump at a podium
Former President Donald Trump was joined in Grand Rapids by law enforcement and Republican politicians to argue for increased security at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)
  • Former President Donald Trump returned to Michigan Tuesday to blast President Joe Biden’s immigration policies
  • Visit preempted by Grand Rapids murder authorities say was committed by a man living in Michigan illegally
  • Democrats argue Trump’s rhetoric is making a bad situation worse

GRAND RAPIDS — Former President Donald Trump slammed President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats on immigration issues Tuesday in Michigan, calling the situation a “bloodbath” that could get worse without a border crackdown.

Trump’s latest campaign visit followed the March 22 murder of Ruby Garcia, 25, a Grand Rapids resident who prosecutors allege was shot by Brandon Ortiz-Vite, her romantic partner who was in the U.S. illegally after previously being deported.

During Tuesday afternoon remarks at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Trump claimed the Biden administration’s record on border security has resulted in an uptick in immigrant-involved crime, arguing a need for stricter enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border and a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities.”


"Under crooked Joe Biden, every state is now a border state,” Trump said. “Every town is now a border town, because Joe Biden has brought the carnage and chaos and killing from all over the world and dumped it straight into our backyards."


If elected, Trump promised to begin his term with "the largest domestic deportation operation in the history of our country."

Democrats contend Trump’s rhetoric on immigration rings hollow after he encouraged Senate Republicans to back out of a bipartisan border deal aimed at reducing illegal crossings, and others are concerned the former president’s rhetoric will harm members of vulnerable communities.

“There's a lot of reasons why we need to address the immigration system, which is broken, but the truth is Donald Trump isn't interested in border security or making our immigration system work,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, told reporters ahead of Trump’s visit. 

“He is only interested in scapegoating people for his own benefits and creating chaos.”

Crime concerns

Garcia’s murder brought a national political debate over security at the U.S.-Mexico border to west Michigan.

Garcia was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds on the shoulder of U.S. 131. Ortiz-Vite, also 25, faces charges for killing her in what authorities called a "domestic violence homicide" that stemmed from their relationship. 

Ortiz-Vite, a longtime Kent County resident, was in the U.S. illegally, law enforcement officials say. He was deported to Mexico in 2020, but at some point re-entered the country without legal permission. 

Trump and his allies argued Garcia’s death is just one example of violent crimes that could occur without stronger border policies. He claimed he spoke with Garcia's family, but Garcia's sister told WOODTV neither Trump nor his campaign spoke to anyone in the immediate family prior to his speech.


“Not one more innocent life should be lost,” Trump said Tuesday.

Trump was joined by several law enforcement officials at the event, who bolstered Trump’s claims that a surge in border crossings has contributed to violent crime and more readily available illegal drugs. 

James Tignanelli, president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan, endorsed Trump Tuesday, noting immigrants coming into the country without permission makes it harder for law enforcement personnel to do their jobs: “We can’t allow that to continue,” he said.  

Since Biden took office and rolled back several Trump-era restrictions, illegal border crossings have averaged about 2 million per year, the highest level in history, according to federal data reported by the Washington Post

Biden's campaign countered that violent crime rose under Trump’s watch and that the former president “can't paper over” his record or history of disrespecting law enforcement officers. 

“The idea of Trump ‘standing’ with Michigan law enforcement is laughable,” Alyssa Bradley, Biden’s Michigan communications director, said in a statement. 

What the data says on immigrant crime

Trump also pointed to other recent instances of immigrant-involved crime in Michigan, including a string of robberies in Oakland County homes authorities said were orchestrated by “transnational gangs” and the 2023 shooting death of Leah Marie Gomez, 22, by Mexican national Luis Bernal-Sosa in Grand Rapids. 

While crime statistics lag, the most recent data shows the number of murders in Michigan fell during Biden's first two years of office after peaking at 760 in 2020, the final year of Trump's tenure that was marked by COVID-19

Most research indicates immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native residents, regardless of their legal status, according to a 2019 study by the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University.

A February study by the libertarian Cato Institute also found that people who are in the country illegally have lower conviction rates for homicide than native-born residents.

“Still, some illegal immigrants do commit homicide, and that statistical fact is no comfort to victims and their families. More importantly, nobody should expect the statistics to comfort individuals affected by violent crime,” read the study. 

Sabrina Balgamwalla, an assistant professor at Wayne State Law School and director of the school’s Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic, said politicization of isolated crimes “compounds the tragedy” by stoking fear among immigrant populations and discouraging them from going to law enforcement when they’re suffering from issues like domestic violence.

“There’s really no linkage between immigration and crime,” Balgamwalla told Bridge. “The effects of this rhetoric are marginalizing, and that can be really harmful…it just leaves people in a lot of fear and makes it hard for them to live their lives and be part of the community.” 

State-level policies

In his Grand Rapids speech, Trump also took aim at federal and state-level policies he said encouraged illegal immigration in Michigan, including a state-run rental subsidy program for housing immigrants launched last year. 

He claimed Biden and Democratic officials like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are “stealing your money to give free housing to illegals and then asking you to put these people in your homes.” 

“Once peaceful, suburban Michigan is really, now…under an invasion,” he said. “We have to get law and order back.”

State officials have pushed back on claims that the subsidy program benefits people living in the country illegally, noting that funding for Michigan’s rental subsidy program comes from federal dollars and is only available to legal residents who meet federally-mandated eligibility requirements. 

House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, told Bridge Michigan his primary concern is that people who are caught living in the country illegally could still benefit from the program if they have a pending application for asylum. 

Immigration in Michigan by the numbers

In Michigan, about 91,000 people are in the state without authorization, about 1.2% of the state’s population, according to the nonpartisan research firm Migration Policy Institute.

The number of immigrants legally allowed to enter Michigan, including those granted green cards and refugee or asylum status, had not risen dramatically under Biden as of 2022, according to the most recent federal data available.

In 2022, Michigan took in 1,143 refugees, 10th per capita among all states. That’s three fewer refugees than came to Michigan in 2019 under Trump. Those figures were much higher under former President Barack Obama, with more than 3,000 refugees coming into Michigan each year between 2013 and 2016.

To date, 925 refugees have arrived in Michigan in 2024, state officials said Monday, and the state is approved to accept up to 3,000 for the current fiscal year.  

The 352 immigrants granted asylum status who landed in Michigan in 2022 was only slightly higher than the 324 in 2019. Fewer than 200 asylum seekers entered the state in 2020 and 2021.

Political implications 

Michigan is a key battleground state in the race to the White House, and voters in Kent County will likely play a big role in who wins Michigan's electoral votes this fall.

Trump is the presumed Republican nominee for the 2024 contest and is expected to face Biden for a rematch this fall. 

Kent County was long considered a bastion of conservative politics, though that’s changed in recent election cycles. In 2016, Trump bested Democrat Hillary Clinton in the county by roughly 10,000 votes. But in 2020, Biden won the county by nearly 21,000 votes, a 30,000-vote shift.

Trump said in his Tuesday speech that immigration could be an issue that sways swing voters back in his direction.

“I do great with the suburban housewives, because they want to remain safe,” he said. 


Last week, longtime GOP political strategist John Yob predicted in a memo that Garcia’s murder will move “historically centrist Republicans in west Michigan who were torn in recent presidential elections firmly into President Trump’s corner.”

“The massive problem at the border and corresponding media attention is now on the verge of turning these ‘soccer moms’ into ‘security moms’ in west Michigan and changing their perspective in the presidential race,” Yob wrote.

Trump also used the Tuesday event to highlight down-ballot Republican candidates and elected officials, including U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rogers and U.S. Reps. John James, Jack Bergman and John Moolenaar.

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