President Donald Trump toured a newly finished section of border wall June 23 in Yuma, crediting it not only for a reduction in border crossings and drugs but claiming it has helped prevent “a coronavirus catastrophe” on the southern border.
Trump, welcomed by a number of Republican elected officials, was in Arizona to mark the completion of the first 200 miles of the border wall that was a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign. He followed the Yuma event with a campaign-like speech in Phoenix.
“During the past two months, we’ve seen the lowest number of illegal border crossings in many years,” Trump said in Yuma. “Illegal immigration is down 84% from this time last year. Illegal crossings from Central America are down 97%.”
But Democrats were quick to criticize the visits on a day when Arizona set another record for new COVID-19 cases, adding 3,591 new cases and 42 deaths in one day.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat who represents the 7th Congressional District, including Glendale and other parts of the West Valley, said that instead of his “little pep rally,” Trump should be spending his time on the coronavirus and the health and economic problems it has caused.
“You should probably stop at the Yuma Medical Center and see how many of the ICU beds there are taken by COVID patients,” Gallego said during a conference call with state and national Democrats.
“Or you should go and talk to the unemployment office to see how many people are unemployed because he mismanaged this whole situation to the point where the pandemic ended up affecting the economy,” he said.
But Trump, during a roundtable with state and federal officials before the border wall visit, only mentioned COVID-19 in the context of border security and the wall, which he said stopped COVID-19 from crossing into San Diego.
State Republicans at the event were eager to credit Trump for the wall, which they said is already a success.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, a Republican who represents the 8th Congressional District, including Peoria, Litchfield Park, and part of Glendale and Avondale, told Trump “the difference is so clear between what the Democrats want for the future of our nation and what you are doing to make us safe and make our country safe.”
Even as he praised the achievements, Ducey said, “I know there’s more to do, because the border’s longer than 220 miles.”
Trump, who has vowed to have 450 miles of border wall completed by the end of this year, promised Tuesday that the wall “is going to be complete very soon.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the likely Democratic nominee to challenge Trump this fall, cited that as evidence that Trump “remains focused on his expensive, ineffective and wasteful ‘wall’ on our Southern Border.” He called the Arizona visit a “distraction from Donald Trump’s failed response to combat the spread of COVID-19.”