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Trump receives endorsement from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at border as both Republicans outline hardline immigration agenda

Greg Abbott endorses Trump for 2024
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott endorses Trump for 2024 at event near U.S.-Mexico border 04:43

Edinburg, Texas — Former President Donald Trump on Sunday received the endorsement of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his 2024 presidential bid at a campaign event near the U.S.-Mexico border, a region that has played a pivotal role in the political careers of both Republicans.

Abbott, another fierce critic of President Biden's immigration policies, gave Trump an effusive endorsement in Edinburg, a small city in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, one of the busiest sectors for unlawful border crossings, and an area where Republicans have made inroads with its predominantly Hispanic communities in recent years.

After serving meals to Texas National Guard members and troopers involved in the state's border security initiative, known as Operation Lone Star, Trump and Abbott embraced each other on a stage set up in front of Texas law enforcement helicopters, a plane and an armored vehicle.

"We need a president who's going to secure the border," Abbott said.

In recent weeks, Trump has escalated his harsh rhetoric on immigration and the scope of his promises on the issue, which some of his advisers believe partially catapulted him to victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. In one recent interview, he claimed that migrants were "poisoning the blood of our country."

Election 2024 Trump Texas
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, listens as Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump, right, speaks to Texas state troopers and guardsmen during a Thanksgiving meal at the South Texas International Airport, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Edinburg, Texas. Eric Gay / AP

During his presidency, Trump staged a crackdown on illegal and legal immigration, taking unprecedented actions to cut immigrant admissions, restrict access to the asylum system, build hundreds of miles of border wall and end temporary deportation protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including those who arrived in the U.S. as children.

But Trump has promised to take his hardline immigration agenda further if he's elected in 2024, pledging to carry out the largest deportation operation in U.S. history, expand his travel bans, deny birthright citizenship to the American-born children of unauthorized immigrants, and reject legal immigrants with political beliefs he disagrees with. Trump has also refused to rule out reviving his infamous migrant family separation policy, which he discontinued in 2018 after widespread public outcry.

Abbott, who has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate, has also made immigration a top issue during his governorship, turning Texas into the chief adversary to Mr. Biden's migration and border measures. 

Since Mr. Biden took office, Abbott has ordered state officials to fortify the banks of the Rio Grande with razor wire and river barriers, directed Texas troopers to arrest migrant adults on trespassing charges, and authorized the state to bus tens of thousands of migrants to Democratic-led cities, mainly New York City and Chicago.

Abbott is also soon expected to sign what would be the harshest state immigration law in modern American history. The measure, known as SB4, will empower state law enforcement officials to arrest migrants on new illegal entry criminal charges, and allow state judges to issue deportation orders to suspected violators. 

After it passed the Texas legislature earlier this month, the bill was denounced as draconian and unconstitutional by the Mexican government, Democratic lawmakers and the American Civil Liberties Union, which has promised to challenge the measure. SB4 will almost certainly also trigger another legal clash with the Biden administration, as immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. 

In recent days, Mr. Biden's reelection campaign has seized on Trump's 2024 immigration promises, casting them as radical and cruel in a public messaging campaign it hopes will galvanize Latinos to vote against the former president. 

"Trump has been unapologetically open about the extreme, inhumane and fundamentally un-American policies that he would enact if he found his way back into the Oval Office," Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Mr. Biden's campaign manager, said on a press call on Saturday ahead of Trump's visit to the Texas border.

Biden faces his own political challenges on immigration, one of his worst-polling issues. His administration has been under growing pressure from Republicans and many Democrats to limit the entry of migrants along the southern border, where migrant apprehensions have reached record levels over the past three years.  

In a recent statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said the former president is gaining more support among Latinos and other minority voters because "they know he is the only one who can secure the border," faulting Mr. Biden for the record spike in migrant crossings.

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