Trump backs air complaints at Texas border rally By Reuters

©Reuters. A participant in the ‘Take Back Our Border’ rally against migrants crossing into Mexico, rides a motorcycle before the start of the event at the Cornerstone Children’s Ranch in Quemado, Texas, U.S., February 2, 2024. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

By Ted Hesson and Maria Alejandra Cardona

QUEMADO, Texas (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters from across the country flocked to a small Texas border town on Saturday to vent frustration over illegal immigration and show support for former President Donald Trump, emblazoned on T-shirts, banners and signs.

The “Take Back Our Border” protest began with a convoy of vehicles from Virginia rolling into a ranch in the remote town of Quemado Friday evening to the sound of horns and cheers.

While attendees highlighted the peaceful nature of the event, critics warn it could stoke anti-immigrant sentiment.

U.S. border officials have moved migrants from a processing center in nearby Eagle Pass in recent days after the FBI identified a threat to the facility and agents, two sources familiar with the matter said, requesting anonymity to discuss internal information.

“Any threat like that is a significant concern,” a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official told Reuters.

The agency has been able to relocate migrants with relative ease as border seizures have dropped sharply in the area over the past month, the official said.

The FBI declined to comment, referring the matter to CBP.

Immigration has become a potent political issue in an election year that will likely see a rematch between Trump, a Republican, and his Democratic successor, President Joe Biden.

Trump has energized his base voters by calling for more restrictive border practices, while critics worry that policies and events like the convoy could stoke tensions.

Eagle Pass has gained national prominence in recent months as Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott clashed with Biden over the state’s aggressive tactics to deter crossers, including troops, accordion cables and a barrier of floating buoys in the Rio Grande.

Abbott and 14 other Republican governors plan to hold a news conference Sunday in Eagle Pass to defend the approach.

Reuters witnesses saw small groups of migrants on Friday and Saturday crossing the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass trapped by barbed wire on the riverbank as they waited for help.

Anna Gabriela Derbez, a 56-year-old Eagle Pass resident at the border event, said immigration is one of several issues — including COVID-19 vaccines, artificial intelligence and LGBTQ education — that are part of “a struggle between good and evil.”

“We are pro-immigration,” said Derbez, whose grandparents came to the United States from Mexico. “Legal immigration, you know, good immigration, people coming in and wanting to work and a better place.”

Rob Brace, a 79-year-old retired podiatrist, rode his motorcycle alone eight hours from McAllen, Texas, to greet the convoy, saying he felt compelled to come as migrant flows have increased in recent years .

“People just seem to ignore the fact that our country is in a very bad situation,” he said.

Smaller events were planned in Yuma, Arizona and San Ysidro, California.

U.S. Rep. Keith Self, a conservative Republican who represents a district in northeast Texas, plans to speak at Saturday’s rally. It’s unclear whether other lawmakers or national figures might appear.

Conservative figures Sarah Palin, a former Republican vice presidential candidate, and Ted Nugent, a rock musician and outspoken gun rights advocate, joined the protest Thursday as the convoy stayed overnight further north in Dripping Springs, Texas.

While some at Thursday’s event spoke of religious values, Nugent called Biden a “snake of devil scum” in a caustic speech before performing the American national anthem on guitar.

The event’s religious theme overlapped with the political message as Christian rock musicians performed to rows of attendees in camping chairs. With music playing in the background, a young woman wearing an American flag T-shirt was baptized at the side of the stage in a metal tub.

On Friday, Minnesota pastor Doug Pagitt tried to enter the rally site after stopping in the area as part of a tour to combat what he calls “Christian nationalism,” but was denied entry because attendees shouted at him. said “you are not wanted.”

“We want to engage,” Pagitt said afterward.

The number of apprehended migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border has reached record levels since Biden took office in 2021. Migrant arrests have declined over the past month after a peak in December.

Internal CBP statistics reviewed by Reuters showed 216 arrests of migrants on Tuesday across the Del Rio sector, which covers a 400km stretch of the Rio Grande and includes Eagle Pass. In mid-December that figure sometimes topped 4,000 a day, internal data shows.

U.S. officials have warned that the slowdown may be seasonal, although the Mexican government has also stepped up enforcement.

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