Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday is set to touch down in Texas to cast a bright light on what he sees as the Biden administration’s failed approach to illegal immigration and the “humanitarian crisis” that is playing out in his absence.
Mr. Trump is slated to join Gov. Greg Abbott and law enforcement officials at the Texas Department of Public Safety in Weslaco, tour an unfinished part of the border wall and participate in a town hall meeting with supporters.
It marks the latest stop in what could be described as an “I told you so” tour that has thrust Mr. Trump back onto the political stage and given him a platform to criticize President Biden — as well as fellow Republicans.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said Mr. Trump is looking to capitalize on what is shaping up to be Mr. Biden’s Achilles’ heel.
“Regardless of what his political plans are in the future, it is still an opportunity to argue that his actions have been vindicated,” said Mr. Kirkorian, whose group advocates for less immigration. “It will focus public attention on the border, which is the one area where Biden is upside down in the polls. Immigration is the one area where he is in trouble.”
Mr. Biden over five months has rolled back most of Mr. Trump’s vision on immigration.
The president and his team have halted border wall construction, canceled the “Remain in Mexico” policy that forced migrants to wait in Mexico for asylum hearings, and revoked agreements with Central American countries to stem the flow of migrants crossing their territory en route to the U.S.
The moves have not been popular with the public, according to a recent Harvard/Harris Poll that found Mr. Biden has a 59% approval rating among registered voters.
The poll included warning signs for the Biden White House and Democrats as they prepare to defend their House and Senate majorities next year.
For instance, most voters underestimated the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country.
When they learned that roughly 200,000 immigrants are crossing the southern border each month, 64% of respondents said they would like the government to issue stricter policies to reduce the flow.
Plus, 55% of voters said they believe the Biden administration should have kept the Trump policies that made it more difficult to come into the country. And 68% of respondents said Mr. Biden’s policies have encouraged illegal immigration.
The findings help explain why the issue has become a rallying point for Republicans and why some Democrats such as Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas have been critical of the Biden administration’s approach.
Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have downplayed the challenges associated with the surge of migrants.
Ms. Harris was tapped this year to lead U.S. efforts with Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — home of many of the migrants — to address the “root causes” of the migration surge.
Ms. Harris visited the southern border last week after Republicans badgered her for months to see the mess firsthand.
“This issue cannot be reduced to a political issue,” Ms. Harris said on the visit. “We’re talking about children. We’re talking about families. We’re talking about suffering.
“Our approach has to be thoughtful and effective.”
Republicans are not impressed.
“This latest surge in illegal immigration is a direct result of Biden’s radical amnesty and open borders agenda,” the Republican National Committee said Tuesday. “Meanwhile, Biden’s Border Czar has been on a wild goose chase searching for the ‘root causes’ of Biden’s border crisis.
“If she really wants to find the root causes of Biden’s border crisis, Kamala Harris should walk over to the Oval Office,” the committee said.
May saw the highest number of undocumented immigrant apprehensions in two decades, and after a dip from catastrophic to merely troubling numbers, unaccompanied migrant children are once again reaching catastrophic levels.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has been crying foul from the sidelines, telling supporters at his first campaign-style rally in Ohio over the weekend that “illegal aliens are overrunning our borders.”
Mr. Trump said “our borders, they were so perfect,” but now “drug cartels and human traffickers are back in business.”
“You have millions of people coming into this country,” Mr. Trump said. “Joe Biden is doing the opposite of what we did. His policy is to make illegal immigration as easy as possible.”
Mr. Trump’s hard-nosed approach was a signature part of his four-year term and is now serving as a blueprint for Republican candidates across the country who are looking to tap into that grassroots energy and distance themselves from Democrats.
Mr. Trump is slated to tour the border wall with members of the conservative House Republican Study Committee. Mr. Trump and Mr. Abbott also plan to headline a town hall-style meeting moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity.
The jury is out on whether Mr. Trump is the best messenger for the GOP on the issue.
“Is hawkishness on immigration a winner for the GOP? I think the answer is, ‘Yes,” Mr. Kirkorian said. “The question is: Does Trump push some people who would support a hawkish border police away? I don’t know.”
“There might be people in the middle who might be more receptive to a hawkish approach on the border who might be more skeptical of it if it is associated with Trump,” he said. “The fact is at this point it is not going to hurt the Republicans if Trump is focusing on the border because it is so outlandish what Biden is doing that drawing attention to it can only help Republicans.”
Democrats, meanwhile, say the GOP’s approach to illegal immigration is inseparable from Mr. Trump and his polarizing brand of politics.
“Tomorrow’s message from Texas is clear: Trump may be out of the White House, but Trumpism is alive and well in Texas, in Washington, and across the country,” Rep. Lizzie Parnell of Texas said in a fundraising email Wednesday to her supporters.
“I am grateful to my Republican colleagues who have stood up to this divisive brand of politics and stood up for our democracy, but they are unfortunately in the minority in their party right now,” Ms. Parnell said. “While the 2022 election may seem far off — and in many ways it is — this event is as clear a signal as any that the campaign has already started.”
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.