President Donald Trump’s 65-minute speech Thursday in Great Falls hit all his usual talking points, and then some, as he castigated Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Democrats in general, the media, Hillary Clinton, the NFL, our NATO allies and foreign trading partners.
He also talked up his economic record, noting that U.S. unemployment hit an 18-year low in May, of 3.9 percent, and that the economy has added 3.4 million jobs since he became president 18 months ago. (Under the final two years of Obama’s presidency, the nation added 5.3 million jobs.)
But he spent perhaps more time on one issue than any other: Illegal immigration, and the threat it allegedly poses to the nation. His riffs on immigration also generated enthusiastic responses from the 6,000-plus, pro-Trump crowd in the Four Seasons Arena.
“A vote for the Democrats in November is a vote to let (the Latino gang) MS-13 run wild in our communities, to let drugs pour into our cities, and to take jobs and benefits away from our hard-working Americans,” he said. “We’re not letting it happen.”
He also said the “new platform of the Democrat Party” is to abolish the Department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and that Democrats want to get rid of immigration enforcement entirely.
A few Democrats have called for abolishing ICE, and refashioning a new agency – but haven’t been specific on what they’re proposing.
“We believe in strong borders and no crime; it’s very simple,” Trump said Thursday. “We believe in coming into this country legally.”
Up-to-date data on illegal immigration are hard to come by, but most show that the illegal immigrant population in the United States has been fairly stable or declining slightly for the past decade.
Former President Obama increased Border Patrol agents to a high of about 21,500 in 2011; they have declined to about 19,500 last year.
The number of apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the U.S. border during 2017 also was generally lower than in each of the previous three years – although it has spiked upward this year, but is still lower than in 2013 and 2014.
Trump said some towns in America are overrun by foreign gangs like MS-13 – “It’s like a nation is occupying your country” – and that under his administration, ICE and other federal enforcement are “taking them out by the thousands.”
“Every day I’m president, we will track down the gang members, drug dealers, child predators and criminal aliens that we find, we will get them, we will throw them the hell out of our country or put ‘em in jail,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
And Trump made this message a strongly partisan one, saying Democrats resist funding the military and are no friend of law enforcement.
“Getting military funding from the Democrats is almost impossible,” he said. “They don’t want it, they don’t care about our military, they don’t care about law enforcement. They couldn’t give a damn. You better vote Republican.”
Actually, the 2018 Defense Authorization Act, which approved increased military spending to nearly $700 billion this year, was approved last year with strong bipartisan votes: 89-8 in favor in the Senate, with Montana’s Democratic Sen. Tester voting yes, and 356-70 in the House.