Trump attacks immigration in return to Wisconsin

In his first trip to Wisconsin since 2022, former President Donald Trump railed against the Biden Administration’s handling of the southern border and gave Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde his endorsement. 

At a rally in Green Bay Tuesday, Trump effectively kicked off his general election campaign for the coveted swing state. His visit came the same day voters cast ballots in Wisconsin’s largely symbolic presidential primary, where Trump and President Joe Biden have already secured their parties’ nominations. 

Trump focused primarily on immigration during his speech, while continuing to falsely claim he won the 2020 election both in Wisconsin and nationally. 

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Trump rally attendees stand for the national anthem Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

He said Biden’s policies have led to a flood of immigrants coming into the country.

“This is an invasion of our country,” Trump said. “This is bigger than a war.”

Trump said he would lead the “largest deportation in American history” once reelected.

He pointed to a recent influx of between 800 to 1,000 migrants to Whitewater as the result of the current administration’s handling of the southern border. 

“Does anybody know Whitewater after being inundated with Biden migrants? This tiny town now has a budget shortfall,” Trump said. “Their public schools are straining with hundreds of new migrant students who don’t speak a word of English.”

Earlier this year, Whitewater officials told WPR the influx of immigrants had strained city resources, but they were doing everything they could to help them become integrated into the community. Officials believe the migrants started arriving in early 2022, and didn’t arrive all at once.

Trump’s immigration rhetoric came months after he effectively sunk a bipartisan border deal, negotiated between Senate Republicans and the Biden White House.

Joining Trump at the rally was Hovde, who is challenging Wisconsin’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

“Eric, I am giving you my complete and total endorsement, so go out and win,” Trump said. “You better win.”

During his own remarks before Trump spoke, Hovde also focused on immigration, as well as inflation.

“We’re struggling to provide food, housing and health care for our own citizens,” Hovde said. “How are we gonna provide that for another 10 to 12 million people? It’s wrong.”

Senate candidate Eric Hovde shakes hands with a supporter at a rally for former president Donald Trump on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR
Former president Donald Trump speaks Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Aside from speaking about immigration, Trump also continued to push the false narrative he won the 2020 election despite a statewide canvas, partial recount and multiple court decisions and audits showing that he lost.

“The radical left Democrats rigged the presidential election in 2020,” Trump said. “And we’re not going to allow them to rig the presidential election in 2024.”

Before Trump took the stage, My Pillow founder and CEO Michael Lindell, a well-known election denier, spoke to the crowd in between speeches from Republican officials and candidates. The crowd at the rally gave Lindell a standing ovation.

CEO of My Pillow Mike Lindell waves to supporters from the press risers Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Democrats attack Trump, Hovde

In a press conference ahead of the Trump rally, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, who sits on the Biden-Harris Campaign’s National Advisory Board, said Trump’s visit is an attempt to “put a band aid on the fact” that he hasn’t been to the state in over two years.

According to the campaign, President Joe Biden visited the state four times and Vice President Kamala Harris visited three times in the last year. Biden is set to return to Wisconsin next week, stopping in Madison Monday before going to Chicago for a campaign event.

“President Biden has consistently shown up,” Rhodes-Conway said. “He’s listened to us, and he’s delivered. Wisconsin Democrats are building the infrastructure, collecting the resources and building the coalition that we need to win this November, just like we did in 2020.”

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin criticized Hovde for appearing at the Trump rally, characterizing it as a sign that Hovde is out of touch with average Wisconsinites.

“From wanting to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, to banning abortion and cutting Social Security and Medicare, we can’t let Hovde and Trump impose their MAGA agenda on Wisconsin,” said Arik Wolk, the state party’s rapid response director, in a statement. 

Former Pres. Donald Trump speaks to supporters Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Supporters waited in the snow to see former president

Trump’s Green Bay rally came as northeast Wisconsin braced for a winter storm. Supporters waited out in the cold and snowy rain for hours before being let into the event.

Robin Menucci drove to Green Bay from the Burlington area to see Trump speak, saying “nothing was gonna stop” her from attending the rally. She said she believes Trump won the 2020 election.

“I absolutely believe that was a stolen election,” Menucci said. “I believe that it was orchestrated by the Democratic Party, with help from the mainstream media and big tech.”

Another Trump supporter, Pam Lanaville of Green Bay, had similar sentiments about the last presidential election, saying she believes a popular conservative conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama is secretly running the White House. She also said she thinks Trump’s ongoing legal troubles are “bogus.” 

“I think it’s all Democrats doing this so he’s arrested, thrown in jail,” she said. “I think that it’s all just trumped-up charges.”

According to the Associated Press, Trump faces 91 total felony counts and four criminal indictments in four different cities.

Trump embraced his legal troubles at the rally, framing it as a political witch hunt.

“I got indicted more than Alphonse Capone, Al Capone, Scarface,” he said.

While many Trump voters haven’t given up on the former president, at least 11 of his former cabinet officials — including former Vice President Mike Pence — have refused to endorse him for another term, according to Newsweek

A Trump supporter in the crowd reacts as the former president speaks Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Republicans don’t mention abortion at Trump event

In addition to Hovde, Trump was joined at the event by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, and U.S. Reps. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, and Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst.

None of them mentioned the abortion issue during their stop in Green Bay. Abortion access played a major role in helping Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz win a seat on the state’s top court a year ago.

But last month, Trump signaled he would support a 15-week federal ban on abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest and life-threatening emergencies, the New York Times reported.

Samantha Crowley, a medical student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said during the Biden campaign’s press conference that a national abortion ban would “take away the reproductive freedoms” of over 1 million Wisconsin women. She said Trump’s largely taken credit for the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision getting overturned.

“As a medical student and a future physician, when I see in the news that Trump and Republicans want to pass a national abortion ban, I am scared not only for my health, but the health and well being of my family, my friends and my patients,” she said.

The most recent Marquette University Law School poll had Biden and Trump tied nine months ahead of the November election, and statewide elections in Wisconsin have come down to a razor-thin margin in recent years.

Trump supporters cheer during a rally for the former president Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

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