EDINBURG, Texas — Donald Trump has maintained strong Republican backing over his approach to the U.S.-Mexico border — even as his supporters in the area acknowledge he failed to deliver on many of his lofty promises.
While Trump was unable to build a 1,000-mile border wall and have Mexico pay for it, a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign, some residents near the southern border are lining up to vote for him again in 2024, saying his brash rhetoric shined a bright spotlight on the issue and made them feel safer.
It’s a dynamic that illustrates how Trump’s strident tone on the border has been one of the key ways he has commanded loyalty over the Republican Party — and why it’s an issue he’s eager to run on heading into a potential rematch with President Joe Biden.
“I just feel like [the border] was a lot better under his administration, even though he did not fulfill his promises,” said Angie Garcia, a 30-year-old small business owner who lives in the border town of Edinburg, Texas.
“Why I really appreciated the Trump administration is because he brought to light those border issues that no one heard about,” added Garcia, who supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 and plans to again in 2024.
Trump made several commitments to secure the border during his first presidential run that never came to fruition. He touted on the 2016 campaign trail that the wall along the U.S. Mexico border would be 1,000 miles long. The Trump administration ended up building 453 miles of border wall, the bulk of which went towards reinforcing or rebuilding existing portions of the wall. Trump also said the border wall would cost between $8 billion and $12 billion, costs Mexico would cover. While the former president secured thousands of Mexican soldiers to police their side of the border, U.S taxpayers ended up paying $15 billion for wall construction costs.
Still, voters are increasingly favoring the Trump-led Republican Party’s approach to the broader issue. The latest NBC News poll found that 50% of registered voters gave the GOP the advantage on border security issues, compared to 20% for the Democrats. And the survey showed Republicans with an 18-point lead on immigration — a number that’s higher than at any point during the Trump administration.
“I feel that they all make promises whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat or an independent,” said small business owner Denise Eason of McAllen, Texas. “But I feel that there was more of [Trump] wanting to take care of the issue than what they’re doing now.” Eason said she intends to support Trump in 2024 after voting for him in 2016 and 2020.
Encounters at the southern border have steadily increased since June, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That’s led to a politically dicey situation for Biden, as some Democratic governors and mayors have called him to stem the flow of migrants while progressives have warned against implementing tougher enforcement measures.
Border Patrol Agent Myra Banks, who has been on the job for 18 years, said that migrants who are being apprehended say they hear the border is softer on enforcement via relatives and social media.
“When we apprehend the families or single adults and ask why, they say, ‘I’m here to stay. I’m not going to be sent back because that’s what I was told,’” said Banks. “This occurred when we had a new administration come into office. We noticed that a lot of the people who were coming that we talked to, they would let us know, ‘Oh, they told us it’s okay to come.”
For Trump, his current messaging on the subject strikes a similar tone to his 2016 campaign.
“We’re getting some very rough people coming into our country. And it’s got to stop. And we’ve got to have the largest mass deportation effort in history. And we’re going to get started immediately,” Trump has said regularly on the trail.