Immigration Becomes Focus During Georgia Campaign Stops

atlanta, georgia — U.S. President Joe Biden said Saturday that he regretted using the term “illegal” during his State of the Union address to describe the suspected killer of Laken Riley. His all-but-certain 2024 GOP rival, Donald Trump, blasted the Democrat’s immigration policies and blamed them for her death at a rally attended by the Georgia nursing student’s family and friends. 

Biden expressed remorse for the use of the term to describe people who arrived or are living in the U.S. illegally. 

“I shouldn’t have used illegal, it’s undocumented,” he said in an interview with MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart taped in Atlanta, Georgia, where the president was meeting with small business owners and holding a campaign rally. 

Trump, campaigning in Rome, Georgia, at the same time, blasted Biden for the comments. 

“Joe Biden went on television and apologized for calling Laken’s murderer an illegal,” he said to jeers and boos. “Biden should be apologizing for apologizing to this killer.” 

Death becomes rallying cry

The back-and-forth underscored how Riley’s killing has become a flashpoint in the 2024 campaign and a rallying cry for Republicans who blame the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S-Mexico border for a record number of migrants entering the country. An immigrant from Venezuela who entered the U.S. illegally has been arrested and charged with Riley’s murder. 

Trump was joined at his rally by Riley’s parents, sister and friends and met with them before he took the stage.  

Trump, in a speech that lasted nearly two hours, hammered Biden on the border and for mispronouncing Riley’s name during his State of the Union address this past week. 

“What Joe Biden has done on our border is a crime against humanity and the people of this nation for which he will never be forgiven,” Trump charged, alleging that Riley “would be alive today if Joe Biden had not willfully and maliciously eviscerated the borders of the United States and set loose thousands and thousands of dangerous criminals into our country.” 

Biden earlier this year bucked activists within his party by agreeing to make changes to U.S. immigration law that would have limited some migration. The deal that emerged would have overhauled the asylum system to provide faster and tougher enforcement, as well as given presidents new powers to immediately expel migrants if authorities become overwhelmed. It also would have added $20 billion in funding, a huge influx of cash. 

The changes became part of a short-lived bipartisan compromise in the Senate that was quickly killed by Republican lawmakers after Trump made his opposition known. 

Since then, Biden has insisted that Congress take up the measure again, arguing Republicans are more interested in being able to talk about the issue in an election year than taking action to fix it. 

Georgia considered pivotal again

Earlier Saturday, both Biden and Trump warned of dire consequences for the country if the other wins another term in the White House as the pair held dueling rallies in Georgia. 

The state was a pivotal 2020 battleground — so close four years ago that Trump has been indicted here for asking election officials to “find 11,780 votes” and overturn Biden’s victory. Both parties are preparing for another closely contested race in the state this year.  

Biden opened his speech at a rally in Atlanta by noting that Trump hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban — who has rolled back democracy in his country — at his Florida club the day before.  

“When he says he wants to be a dictator, I believe him,” Biden said of Trump. “Our freedoms are literally on the ballot this November.”  

Biden hosted the rally at Pullman Yards, a 27-acre arts and entertainment venue in Atlanta, and received the endorsement of Collective PAC, Latino Victory Fund and AAPI Victory Fund, a trio of political groups representing, respectively, Black, Latino, and Asian Americans and Pacific Island voters. The groups were announcing a $30 million commitment to mobilize voters on Biden’s behalf.  

Crowd shows support for Jan. 6 insurrection

Trump’s rally opened by asking attendees to rise to support the hundreds of people serving jail time for their roles in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, when thousands of pro-Trump supporters tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election by halting the counting of Electoral College votes.  

The intensity of the rhetoric presaged a grueling eight months of campaigning ahead in the state.  

“We’re a true battleground state now,” said U.S. Representative Nikema Williams, an Atlanta Democrat who doubles as state party chairwoman.  

Once a Republican stronghold, Georgia is now competitive with a path to victory for both Biden and Trump. 

leave a reply: