Citing three terrorist attacks over the weekend, Donald Trump criticized the nation’s immigration system Tuesday in North Carolina.
Trump spoke to supporters at Mills Athletic Center at High Point University before heading to another rally in Eastern North Carolina’s Kenansville, population 870.
“Since 9/11, hundreds of immigrants and their children have been implicated in terrorist activities in the United States,” Trump said in High Point in an oft-repeated accusation that agrees with an analysis by the think tank, New America Foundation.
“My opponent has the most ‘open borders’ policy of anyone to ever seek the office of president,” the Republican presidential nominee said. “It’s not even close.”
Trump repeatedly has claimed that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton favors open borders, a claim PolitiFact has ruled false.
Trump said the weekend attacks were a result of the nation’s open immigration system. He said he would institute rigorous screening systems for those trying to become citizens.
“We want to make sure we’re only admitting people into our country who love our country,” Trump said.
Saturday’s attacks included a stabbing spree at a Minnesota mall and explosions in New York and New Jersey.
Blaming Clinton for the rise of ISIS while she was secretary of state, Trump said he would support working with allies to fight Islamic terrorism through military means and cyber and ideological warfare.
Trump renewed his outreach to African-American voters, where polls show he has little support.
“I’ll fight for your safety,” he said, citing statistics showing rising crime in the nation’s urban centers. He said he would create a new civil rights agenda that would rebuild inner cities and bring more jobs.
“What do you have to lose?” Trump said.
Later, in Kenansville, Trump promised: “We’re going to rebuild our inner cities, because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever,” not mentioning slavery or Jim Crow segregation.
Addressing a High Point audience that appeared to be composed of about half college students and half other supporters, Trump said rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure would be a priority while delivering tax cuts.
Trump said that he planned to make the nation wealthy again, in part by keeping jobs in the country. North Carolina has been hit hard by declining manufacturing.
“It’s time to break with the bitter failures of the past,” he said.
“New factories are going to come rushing, rushing in,” he said. “You wait until you see what happens. People will be incentivized to stay and deincentivized if they leave.”
It’s Trump’s third straight week visiting North Carolina, a key battleground state.
He addressed supporters in Asheville last week, where he criticized Clinton for her comment that half his supporters are “a basket of deplorables.” The week before, he appeared in Greenville, where he promised to bring jobs back to North Carolina.
The Clinton campaign criticized Trump in advance of his High Point rally.
“Donald Trump has made a career out of taking advantage of small businesses, refusing to pay them the agreed amount after they had done work for his larger companies,” said Guilford County Democratic Party Chair Myra Slone in a statement released by the campaign. “Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, recognizes the crucial role that North Carolina’s more than 840,000 small businesses play in our state’s economy.”
Appealing to millennials
Trump’s campus visit comes at a time when both candidates have faced challenges connecting with younger voters.
At the rally, Ben Habicht and Matthew Warrick, seniors at High Point University, described themselves as conservative-leaning, but both said they recognized flaws in the Trump and Clinton campaigns.
“I think there are problems on both sides,” said Habicht, 21. “I just think this is a cool opportunity – it’s not every day that High Point gets a politician as big as this.”
Habicht said he thinks there are “more closet Trump supporters” on his campus than vocal Clinton supporters. But he said they are reluctant to voice that support because they get called “racist, a bigot, all the stuff.”
Warrick said he was surprised by the number of Trump shirts in the audience – and that it showed how big the Republican nominee’s base is, even if it does not appear vocal on campus.
Lexi Lambros, a senior at High Point from New York, said reaction seemed divided when it was announced Trump would appear on campus.
“Some people were furious, and some people were super excited,” said Lambros, a Democrat. “A lot of alumni had a lot to say about it.”
Too close to call
Martin Kifer, a political science professor at High Point, said reaction to news of a Trump rally on campus was “intense.”
“Just like throughout the country and just like in a lot of different communities, there were some emotional and some reasoned reactions to it,” said Kifer, director of High Point’s survey research center.
He said his center is currently running a poll in North Carolina, and that other polls have shown the race is too close to call between the two leading candidates.
“That kind of intensity means we’re going to see more events like this,” said Kifer, “more resources being spent on TV, more efforts to get out the vote.”
An Elon University poll released Tuesday has Clinton and Trump virtually tied in North Carolina. Trump has a 44-43 percent advantage among likely voters, a lead that falls within the poll’s margin of error.
RealClear Politics’ average of polls has Clinton at 43.8 percent and Trump at 43.2 percent in North Carolina.
Janice Green, who drove from nearby Greensboro, said she supported Ted Cruz, but now is behind Trump. “I could never stand up and vote for Hillary Clinton,” Green said. “She’s evil.”
She said she’s seen a change in Trump recently.
“He’s saying, ‘God bless America’ now,” she said. “That’s good. We just really need to pray for our country. We’re in bad shape.”
Retired nurse Bob Cappel of Kernersville said he has supported Trump because the real estate tycoon doesn’t fit the mainstream mold.
“He’s got his own independence about him,” said Cappel, 69. “And he’s got so many advisers around him, he’ll come through fine.”
Trump’s speech at High Point, which started an hour late, was preceded by a finance meeting, aides said. Between rallies, Trump stopped at Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, where he ordered the barbecue pork plate with cole slaw and hushpuppies.