In the wake of Hamas’ deadly attacks on Israel, former President Donald Trump is turning to a strategy he employed during the 2016 campaign of using terror abroad – and fears of future attacks on American soil – to push for hard-line immigration policies in the United States.
During a Monday rally in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, Trump renewed his pledge to reinstate his controversial travel ban that targeted predominantly Muslim countries as he sought to link the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza with US border security. He also asserted, without evidence, that the “same people” perpetrating violent attacks in Israel were entering the US through “our totally open southern border,” before speculating that some people crossing the border may be planning an “attack” on the US.
The former president’s rhetoric harks back to his 2016 presidential campaign and his first term in office, when he used fears over terror attacks stateside to block immigrants and refugees from predominantly Muslim countries.
During the 2016 cycle, Trump’s campaign called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in the wake of the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, by suspected ISIS sympathizers. He also condemned the Obama administration’s approach to combating ISIS after then-President Barack Obama declared that the terrorist organization had been “contained” one day before the group claimed responsibility for a series of deadly coordinated attacks throughout Paris in November 2015.
“We have leadership who doesn’t know what they’re doing,” Trump said after those attacks.
Within days of taking office in January 2017, Trump signed an executive order for the initial travel ban, which blocked citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the country for 90 days.
The ban sparked protests at airports across the country and drew several legal challenges. The Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of the ban in 2018. President Joe Biden revoked the travel ban after he took office in 2021.
Since launching his 2024 presidential campaign, Trump has vowed to bring the ban back if elected and to expand it to include “communists and Marxists.”
Trump argued Monday that such a ban would prevent attacks similar to the ones launched in Israel over the weekend by the Palestinian militant group Hamas from happening in the US.
Trump is not the first Republican candidate to link terrorism fears and border security. Republicans raised fears of ISIS terrorists crossing into the US from the southern border during the 2014 midterm elections. Ahead of the 2018 midterms, Trump asserted, without evidence, that migrant caravans heading to the US from Central America had “unknown Middle Easterners” mixed in with the groups.
This election cycle, GOP candidates have been focused on a different threat: fentanyl. Some Republican presidential hopefuls have said they would use military force to combat drug trafficking at the border and vowed to address China’s role in producing the chemicals that cartels use to manufacture the drug. But a few candidates have joined Trump in drawing parallels between the attacks in Israel and safety in the US.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that people who intend to harm Americans might cross the southern border.
“You have to recognize that if that can happen in Israel, what do you think can happen in our country with an open border where 7 million people at a minimum have come through illegally?” he said at a campaign stop in Pocahontas, Iowa.
Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has also sought to tie Israel’s war with Hamas to US-Mexico border policy.
“What we read about in the papers is how could this have happened with the intelligence failures and the security that Israel has on its own borders,” Ramaswamy said Sunday in Manchester, New Hampshire. “And those are important questions that are yet to be answered and will hopefully be answered in the coming weeks. But the No. 1 self-reflection of this country is that if it can happen over there, it can certainly happen over here in this country.”
In a social media post Tuesday, Ramaswamy wrote that America “should use the attacks on Israel as a wake-up call” and said he plans to visit the US-Mexico border on Friday.
Most of the Republican presidential candidates have focused their response to the Hamas attacks on hammering the Biden administration for the recent prisoner release deal with Iran, which included the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian frozen funds.
Trump asserted Monday that the deal had caused the current violence in Israel, in addition to money Iran has made in oil sales and “our country’s perceived weakness with an incompetent and corrupt leader.”
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said it was “irresponsible” for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to not link the Hamas attack to the prisoner release deal.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott accused the Biden administration of being “complicit” in the attack and called on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to testify on the $6 billion transfer before the