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Trump cheers border bill collapse, vows ‘deportation operation’

By AFP - Feb 12,2024 - Last updated at Feb 12,2024

Former US president and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump attends a ‘Get Out the Vote’ Rally in Conway, South Carolina, on Saturday (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON — White House hopeful Donald Trump on Saturday celebrated the collapse of legislation targeting the migrant crisis on the US-Mexico border, while vowing that, if reelected, he would carry out a massive “deportation operation” on his first day in office.

The death of the bipartisan bill in the US Senate this week highlights the ex-president’s iron grip on the Republican Party, as its lawmakers acceded to his desire to deny Biden a win on immigration.

“Let’s not forget that this week we also had another massive victory that every conservative should celebrate. We crushed crooked Joe Biden’s disastrous open borders bill,” Trump declared at a rally in South Carolina.

“The whole group did a great job in Congress. We crushed it.”

Under pressure from Trump, who wants to exploit Biden’s perceived weakness on immigration, Republican lawmakers appeared to decide that they would prefer stopping any border reforms until after November’s election. 

Trump — whose first presidential campaign featured a central plank of building a “big, beautiful wall” on the US-Mexico border — on Saturday declared that deporting migrants would be one of his first tasks.

“On day one I will terminate every open border policy of the Biden administration and we will begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history. We have no choice.”

The Senate border bill had included aid for Ukraine and Israel, with lifelines for the US allies appearing dead in the water after Republicans rejected it on Wednesday.

The upper chamber is now considering a foreign aid package that decouples the aid from the border issue entirely.

The $95 billion package set to be debated next week includes funding for Israel’s war against Hamas fighters and for key strategic ally Taiwan. The lion’s share, however, would help pro-Western Ukraine restock depleted ammunition supplies, weapons and other crucial needs as it enters a third year of war.


‘Pay your bills’ 


Amid gnawing concerns over Russian aggression and regional security, the Republican Party led by Trump is increasingly turning its back.

Trump has voiced misgivings about Ukraine aid and NATO, frequently saying it’s unfair to commit the United States to defending other members of the 31-nation alliance.

On Saturday, he went even further, saying he would “encourage” Russia to attack any member nation that had not met its financial obligations.

Recounting an unspecified NATO meeting, Trump described a conversation with a fellow head of state.

“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’ I said, ‘You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent?’”

“No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”

At the rally Trump also needled Nikki Haley, his former UN ambassador who is also seeking the Republican Party’s nomination, though her bid is almost certainly doomed as she badly trails her ex-boss in the race.

Addressing voters in Haley’s home state, Trump questioned the whereabouts of her husband Michael, who has not been seen on the campaign trail as he is on a yearlong military deployment to the Horn of Africa country of Djibouti.

“Where’s her husband? Oh, he’s away. He’s away. What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband,” he said, raising his voice for dramatic effect. 

“Where is he? He’s gone. He knew. He knew.”

Haley clapped back on social media platform X.

“Michael is deployed serving our country, something you know nothing about. Someone who continually disrespects the sacrifices of military families has no business being commander in chief,” she said.


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