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Donald Trump Explores Border Reform Measures In South Texas


A private jet bearing the name Trump in gold letters landed near the U.S.-Mexico border today. Donald Trump's presidential campaign went to Laredo, Texas. Trump has been talking about illegal immigration since he kicked off his campaign last month, saying that Mexico is sending drug dealers and rapists to the U.S. In Laredo, he avoided such inflammatory comments.


DONALD TRUMP: There is a huge problem with the illegals coming through. And in this section, it's a problem. In some sections, it's a massive problem.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But what do you do?

TRUMP: And you have to do - you have to create - you have to make the people that come in - they have to be legal.

BLOCK: NPR's John Burnett has been with Donald Trump today on his border tour, and he joins us now. And John, what else did Donald Trump have to say there?

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Melissa. Well, I think he came to the Texas-Mexico border to mend fences with Hispanics. There was a huge crowd of reporters there expecting him to pile on and make even more incendiary remarks, and it wasn't the case at all. He really sort of lowered the temperature. One reporter tried to get him to talk about illegal immigrants as rapists and drug dealers again, and he said, well, they are killers from here and from all over the world, not just Mexico. And then while standing with his back to the World Trade Bridge there, right on the border with, you know, hundreds of trucks coming up from Mexico, he said, I have a great relationship with Hispanics. I've got thousands and thousands who work for me.

But you know, there were a lot of reporters from Spanish language news networks there. He knew who he was talking to. But it was really quite a change from what we've been hearing from him in the last few weeks.

BLOCK: Well, Laredo is a mostly Hispanic town. What kind of reception did Donald Trump get there?

BURNETT: Well, at the airport, certainly, they were mostly protesters. There were Hispanic groups there. There were veterans groups who were still incensed over his comments about John McCain. And so Donald Trump talked about the warm reception that he got, that everyone loves me and all the flags he saw. And what he didn't realize - that some of the folks who were waving the flags were actually veterans from the Vietnam war who were angry at him. And then there were also some off-duty Border Patrol agents in the reception hall who were very receptive to what he had to say about the job they do.

BLOCK: Why did he go to Laredo in the first place?

BURNETT: Well, he was invited there by the local Border Patrol union, and then they backed out of the meeting this morning. And so he was a little taken aback by that. Trump said the Border Patrol invited me. Actually, it was the local union officials who invited me. It wasn't Customs and Border Protection. And I talked to a Border Patrol union official this morning, and he said there was overwhelming opposition among union members to some sort of tacit endorsement of Donald Trump. He said there's a lot of veterans who are Border Patrol agents, and they didn't want any part of their organization somehow backing him. The union official said that 15 out of 16 union locals had opposed the invitation of Donald Trump to come address the Border Patrol union in Laredo.

BLOCK: Presumably because of what Donald Trump had had to say about John McCain. Donald Trump - we heard him say that this is a huge problem on the border, John. Did he have any solutions for that problem?

BURNETT: Well, he really didn't have any specific solutions for border security. What he said was, we need to make sure that those illegals to come across become legal. He did back off and say that he wasn't in favor of a 2,000-mile fence anymore and that it was only appropriate to have a physical barrier in some places.

But what he mainly said was, leave the Border Patrol alone to do its job. And he got a big applause when he was speaking to the off-duty agents. And the reason is because agents are frustrated that - they say they'll be out in the field; they'll be chasing a group of officials, and then they'll have to clock out. And so they say they're not really given the time they need to do an effective job, and they say they need more backup from helicopters and airplanes. And so Trump clearly knew that was their frustration, and they appreciated him mentioning it.

BLOCK: NPR's John Burnett in Laredo, Texas. John, thanks so much.

BURNETT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.