SAN ANTONIO — President Donald Trump’s heightened anti-immigrant focus, including fears about the incoming fasylum seekers from Central America, is intended to boost Republican support in the upcoming midterm elections, but along the U.S.-Mexico border, his rhetoric appears to be energizing Democrats as well.
Jose Gallegos, a volunteer for the Democratic Party in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, has seen a surge in support for Democrats due to Trump’s immigration rhetoric and policies—which he views as part of Trump’sstrategy to rile up GOP voters and bolster support for Republican candidates.
But Gallegos says Trump’s plan is backfiring.
“His lies are designed to bring about people, his base, to be scared to the fears that they,” undocumented immigrants, “are taking over our country,”.“When they ask him for facts, there are no facts to prove.”
Surveys from Pew Research shows that nationwide voter concerns over immigration and border security fall slightly behind issues such as health care, the Supreme Court and the economy. However, according to a new poll from the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, 37 percent of Texas respondents place immigration or border security as dominant issues.
George Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Bexar County Republican Party, is not offended by Trump’s continued attacks on undocumented immigrants, saying he’s an American first and Hispanic second, and likened the immigration rhetoric from the Democratic side to the historic political machines of New York.
“Illegal immigrants are victimized just like the Irish were victimized by Boss Tweed in New York. These political machines prey on the poor. These folks are preyed upon and kept” by the Democrats.
Trump, who has ordered 5,200 troops to the border, criticized the composition of the caravan Wednesday morningand promised to send reinforcements.
“Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border.” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Many more troops coming. We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!”
Ryan Garcia, a first generation citizen and regional director for the Texas Democratic Party in Bexar County, argued that Democratic voters’ enthusiasm is directly related to the “severe and sudden” consequences of Trump’s 2016 election win that, in large part was based on promises to build a border wall to block undocumented immigrants. His decision to separate families who came across the border illegally last summer was the most polarizing of his anti-immigrant positions.
“Going so far to take kids from immigrant families is just, I think, unfathomable. And I it would be hard for us to believe that could happenif it wasn’t happening before us today,” he said.
Garcia added that “ the history of San Antonio and Mexico are inextricable,”and the city is often a first stop for immigrants.
Gallegos said that administration’s controversial immigration policies influence even those who can’t vote, like the noncitizen parents of voting age children.
“They may not be able to vote for Beto (O’Rourke), but they are making sure their family members do,” he said. “Their citizen children can vote.”