'Time we seal this border': Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott visit Texas border

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PHARR — Former President Donald Trump fired broadsides at his successor and congressional Democrats on a visit Wednesday to an unfinished section of the border wall near the Rio Grande, even as Texas Democrats criticized the trip as an empty publicity stunt.

"Now we have an open, more dangerous border," Trump said to a crowd that included a long list of Republican elected officials from Texas and elsewhere. "More dangerous than it has ever been in the history of our country."

More: 'We get the brunt': How the influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border is playing out in Texas border towns

The former president was invited by Gov. Greg Abbott to listen to the concerns of Texas law enforcement officials and to speak with the rusted bollard border fencing and oversized American and Texas flags waving behind him.

Trump touched on several themes, including several long since debunked, that proved to be among the touchstones of his single term in the White House. He repeated his false claim that Joe Biden did not win the 2020 presidential election..

More: Fact check: Trump lost the 2020 presidential election

Abbott, a Republican who will seek a third term next year, has vowed to use state resources to continue work on the wall, which has been halted by Biden. The governor has been harshly critical of the Democratic administration's 180-degree reversal of Trump's policies for the southern border. At the events in South Texas, the governor continued to drive that theme as he lavished praise upon the former president.

“You see an unfinished border,” Abbott said as he gestured to the wall behind him. “This is Biden’s fault because President Biden is not continuing what President Trump began."

"Apprehensions have shot up, leading to an increase in criminals entering the country," he added. “It is time we seal this border and close it down.”

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PHOTOS: A look at the border ahead of Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott's visit

Texas Democrats, both in Congress and in the Legislature, denounced the border visit. They accused Trump and the governor of playing politics as more pressing issues go unnoticed.

"The state of Texas has gone through so much this past year," said Democratic Congressman Filemon Vela of Brownsville. "The pandemic, the massive power outages that resulted in so many lives lost, and now an unemployment rate that is double what we saw before the virus."

More: 'Massive failure': Why are millions of people in Texas still without power?

"Instead of prioritizing Texans and making sure we grow our economy and get people back to work, Governor Abbott is creating a distracting media circus with a failed former president."

As Trump made his way to the border wall in Pharr, a group of Texas Democrats gathered outside of the Capitol in Austin to criticize Abbott and other state leaders for what they described as a publicity stunt that distracts from real issues lawmakers should be addressing.

“This is a congressional responsibility, not a state responsibility," said state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin. "Congress has been absent for a generation now or more, since I was a little girl in El Paso, Texas — not providing real answers and a real pathway to citizenship."

Illegal border crossings slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic that raged during nearly all of 2020. But federal immigration authorities have apprehended as many as 100,000 migrants at the southern border each month since February, according to reports.

Trump arrived back in South Texas for the first time since shortly before leaving office in January on an overcast day with sometimes heavy rains. The trip with Abbott has stirred intense media interest, not only in Texas but internationally.

Trump said under the Biden administration's border policies, crime and smuggling have increased.

Law enforcement officials who joined the former president for the briefing preceding the event at the border agreed.

"Drug cartels of Mexico need to be the No. 1 enemy of law enforcement," said Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourne, adding that the illegal opioid fentanyl is coming across the border in unprecedented amounts and making its way to communities all across the country.

More: Why South Texas might be ripe for border wall message from Donald Trump and Greg Abbott

Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez told Trump his law enforcement agency, headquartered about 70 miles north of the Rio Grande, has been overwhelmed by the inflow of undocumented migrants. He also said officers have been discovering many more dead bodies of migrants than when Trump was in office.

“We just don’t have the resources,” Martinez said.

More: Gov. Abbott, legislative leaders reallocated $250 million in state funds for border wall

“Come on home, governor,” said state Rep. John Bucy, a Democrat from Austin. “Let’s have a special session and let’s talk about gun safety. Let’s talk about health care, let’s talk about fixing the grid and working on the demand side. And then, if we’re going to waste tax dollars to be here, we can get something done for the people of Texas.”

American-Statesman staff writer Madlin Mekelburg contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Donald Trump, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott visit border: Here's what to know

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