President Donald Trump on Wednesday pushed back against critics who have labeled him and others in the GOP as racist, telling an interviewer that such criticism is a sign that Democrats are growing desperate in their efforts to win back power in Washington.
“You know the word ‘racist’ is used about every Republican that’s winning,” he told Christian Broadcasting Network’s Jenna Browder en route to a campaign rally in Florida. “Any time a Republican is leading they take out the ‘R’ word, the ‘racist’ word. And I’m not anti-immigrant at all.”
Trump has long been accused of relying on racially charged rhetoric, especially in his push for more stringent immigration policies and tougher border security. He famously said the population of Mexican immigrants coming into the U.S. was made up, at least in part, of rapists, drug-dealers and other criminals. On Wednesday, he posted a video to Twitter blaming Democrats for murders committed by an undocumented immigrant and suggesting that caravans of mostly Central American immigrants making their way toward the U.S. through Mexico contains other criminals.
Trump also headlined a rally on Wednesday for Florida gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, who is running against Democrat Andrew Gillum, an African-American, in a tight race that has teemed with racial tension.
The White House has significantly ramped up its attacks on illegal immigration in the final days of midterm election season, with Trump loudly declaring that Democrats want open borders and are uninterested in combating the crime he claims is brought by undocumented immigrants. But that messaging has been blunted somewhat by a recent spate of violence, seen by many as politically motivated, which has put new focus on the incendiary rhetoric used by the president about his political rivals and minorities.
Trump on Wednesday maintained that migrant caravans making their way through Mexico with the goal of seeking asylum at the U.S. border pose a significant threat to the country, telling CBN “these are not angels.”
Trump cited reports that there was a skirmish between some of the migrants and authorities along Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala earlier this week that left Mexican police injured and said that he would be sending another surge of U.S. troops and military resources to the U.S.-Mexico border, though the migrants still have hundreds of miles to travel before they reach the U.S.
“I’m all for people coming into the country legally and people based on merit,” Trump said, despite the fact that seeking asylum at at a U.S. port of entry, which the migrants say they will do, is a legal process.
“But when you see a caravan that’s pouring up to our country with thousands of people, maybe 10,000 people now, and then you see the violence that was caused by a second caravan that’s forming on the northern Mexico side … Look, we’re not going to let them come into our country.”
Estimates on the size of the caravans vary, and one humanitarian group aiding the caravans told USA Today last week that the number had swelled to 10,000, though the size is expected to continue to drop off as the group makes its way through Mexico.
Trump has rejected the notion that his latest anti-immigration push is an effort to score points with his base and get them to the polls next Tuesday.
“Well if I am, I’ve been doing it for a long time because I’ve been on this issue for a long time, ever since you’ve known me and now we have a chance to do something about it,” he said.
Trump expressed confidence in the electoral prospects of the GOP next week, and he partly credited the issue of immigration for his optimism.
“I think we’re just doing very well. There’s a lot of feeling about the horrors of the illegal immigration problem, what people think they’re just going to come into our country and take over our country? And it’s just not going to happen. We’re not going to let that happen but the Democrats want to let that happen.”