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EDINBURG — Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday endorsed former President Donald Trump for his 2024 bid during a campaign stop in the Rio Grande Valley.
Trump joined Abbott at the South Texas International Airport in Edinburg for an event the governor has held yearly since he launched his border initiative, Operation Lonestar, in 2021.
Since then, Abbott hosts a Thanksgiving meal for Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and members of the Texas National Guard each year.
That had been scheduled for Friday, but Abbott’s team over the week rescheduled it to Sunday after learning Trump would join.
On Sunday, there were also members of the National Border Patrol Council and a few members of the U.S. Army who were spotted inside a hangar at the airport where the meal was served.
Outside the hangar, there were more than 100 Trump supporters waiting for a short rally. They sat in front of a stage that had helicopters, an airplane and an armored vehicle behind it.
Trump toured the equipment, which Abbott’s team described as “border assets.”
Just before noon, as law enforcement officers and soldiers waited inside the hangar, Abbott and Trump appeared to a raucous applause. The governor and Trump each stood at the end of two tables where all the food was spread out and served by the former president, Abbott and other officials.
There were an estimated 250 people inside the hangar waiting to be served.
Long lines spread around the hangar and as each soldier, trooper, Border Patrol union member and U.S. Army soldiers approached Trump, who handed an unknown food item wrapped in paper to them, he shook their hands and took selfies with them.
After everyone had their food, Trump addressed the crowd and jumped right into his campaign rhetoric over his claim that the border is broken because of President Joe Biden’s policies.
“The easiest thing to do is say let ’em come in, who cares, let ’em come in, get your paycheck,” Trump said. “We don’t want to do that. We want to make sure our country is safe.”
Trump also said Abbott should not have to be doing Operation Lonestar because immigration is a federal policy.
“But you’re not going to have to do that when I get elected,” Trump said.
He also described Abbott’s “work on the river” as being innovative.
Trump didn’t refer to anything specifically, but Abbott has placed buoys in the Rio Grande and razor wire on the river’s northern bank.
“But it’s not something you’re supposed to be doing,” Trump said. “It’s the federal government, they want open borders.”
The former president also described the people who cross the river illegally as coming from mental institutions and prisons.
He did not delineate between illegal immigration and people seeking asylum.
“We’re like a dumping ground,” Trump said. “We’re not going to put up with it. We’re not going to put up with it.”
Following the meal, Abbott took the stage after being introduced by Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, and criticized Biden and his border and immigration policies.
“If Biden was just enforcing laws that exist, our border would be secure,” Abbott said, as Trump’s supporters cheered.
He also spent time praising Trump’s border policies like the border wall and Title 42 while saying the border was the safest it’s ever been and that immigration was at all-time lows
Abbott failed to mention the pandemic’s impact on illegal migration at the southern border. Title 42 allowed the federal government to turn anyone away from the border because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a build-up of people in camps in Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico waiting to claim asylum.
After Title 42 was rescinded by the Biden administration, illegal immigration did pick back up and reach record numbers this year.
“And then in came Joe Biden and Joe Biden eliminated all of those policies put in place by President Trump,” Abbott said.
He also called Biden an “abject failure” and promised he would prevail in a federal lawsuit the Biden administration brought against him over the buoys in the river.
“We need a president who is going to secure the border,” Abbott said. “We need a president who is going to restore law and order in the United States.”
Abbott then officially endorsed Trump’s campaign.
When Trump came on stage he largely repeated many of his talking points from inside the hangar at the airport and described illegal immigration as an “invasion.”
He also touted how he has visited the border “many times.”
This is Trump’s fourth visit to the Valley.
The former president railed against Biden and said the United States “is going to hell.”
“So many bad things have happened under the Biden administration,” Trump said.
He praised his border policies and claimed that people on the border have told him they are trying to sell homes and ranches because they want to leave but nobody will buy them.
Trump also railed against inflation and its impact on the country, blaming Biden.
He also repeated his false claim that he won the last election against Biden and verbally attacked the media in attendance, including the local media, to much applause from his supporters.