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What we know: Trump uses Michigan woman’s death to stoke immigration fears

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — At campaign events in Michigan and Wisconsin on Tuesday, Donald Trump used the recent death of a Grand Rapids woman killed by a man who immigration officials say had entered the country illegally to amplify his inflammatory rhetoric about the campaign. track accusing President Joe Biden of causing a “bloodbath” at the US-Mexico border.

The woman, Ruby Garcia, 25, was found dead on the side of a Grand Rapids highway on March 22. Police say she was in a romantic relationship with the suspect, Brandon Ortiz-Vite, who is a Mexican citizen.

Immigration has become the focal point of Trump’s re-election campaign. He frequently highlights incidents involving immigrants to fuel concerns about Biden’s border policies and on Tuesday tried to link Garcia’s death to that of Laken Riley, a Georgia nursing student who authorities say was killed by a man who entered the United States illegally.

While authorities believe Riley’s death was random, Garcia’s case is different.

Here’s what we know and how Trump’s claims deviate from the truth.

The death of Ruby Garcia

Trump’s campaign said Garcia was killed by an illegal immigrant “during an attempted drunken carjacking.” This conveys a sense of randomness that is not supported by the facts.

On the night of March 22, a Grand Rapids police officer found Garcia on the side of a highway in Grand Rapids with multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

The suspect, Ortiz-Vite, told authorities he shot Garcia following an argument. He said he then got out of the vehicle, approached the driver’s side and shot her before fleeing the scene in his red Mazda, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Ortiz-Vite has since been charged with murder, open murder, carjacking, carrying a concealed weapon and firearm possession. He was arrested with a Taurus 9mm pistol, which Ortiz-Vite said he used to shoot Garcia and that he “purchased illegally,” according to the affidavit.

Authorities say Garcia and Ortiz-Vite had a “romantic relationship.” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said in announcing the charges that “this is another domestic violence homicide case that we have seen, frankly, far too often over the last few years.” years “.

The killing received little attention until a conservative media outlet began reporting that Ortiz-Vite was an “illegal immigrant.” Michigan Republicans began citing the case to highlight problems at the southern border. Shortly afterward, Trump announced he would travel to Grand Rapids for a campaign event.

Trump initially correctly referred to Garcia as 25 on Tuesday before later saying she was 17. He also said his administration kicked Ortiz-Vite “out of the country and crooked Joe Biden took him back and let him back and let him stay and he viciously killed Ruby.”

But Trump has no way of knowing whether Ortiz-Vite returned to the United States on Biden’s watch or on his own. Ortiz-Vite was deported in September 2020 following an arrest for drunk driving, just over a year after his status with the Deferred Action for New Arrivals program expired. children, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigration officials are unsure whether Ortiz-Vite re-entered the country during the final months of Trump’s presidency or during Biden’s term.

“At an unknown date and location, Ortiz-Vite re-entered the United States without inspection by an immigration official,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement.

Flanked by sheriffs and Republican officials, Trump claimed Tuesday that Garcia’s death was a direct result of Biden’s border policies. He added that Garcia’s “loved ones and community mourn this incredible young woman.”

“When she walked into a room, she would light it up and I heard that from so many people,” Trump said. “I spoke to some of his family.”

Ruby’s sister Mavi, who became a family spokesperson, disputed the former president’s account, telling multiple media outlets that neither Trump nor anyone in his campaign had contacted anyone in his immediate family.

“It was shocking. I kind of stopped watching it. I had only seen that — after hearing some misinformation, he said, I just stopped watching it,” Mavi Garcia told WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.

At the event, a Trump spokesperson could not identify who the former president had spoken with in the Garcia family. The campaign has not been clarified since.

“The mainstream media hates spending more time nitpicking President Trump and obsessing over his ‘rhetoric’ than writing about the heinous crimes committed by Joe Biden’s illegal immigrants, like the one that killed Ruby Garcia.” , said Trump’s national press secretary, Karoline Leavitt. in a report.

Trump told conservative Michigan radio host Justin Barclay on Monday that he would like the Garcia family to be at his event and asked Barclay to coordinate with them. Barclay told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he had not been in communication with the family.

“It’s always been about illegal immigrants,” Mavi Graci told WOOD-TV. “No one really talks about when Americans are committing heinous crimes, and it’s quite shocking that he just brings up illegal immigrants. What about Americans who commit heinous crimes like this?

Immigrant crimes

Michigan Republicans have attempted to link Garcia’s death to other crimes allegedly committed by immigrants to indicate a disturbing trend. Trump on Tuesday mentioned a series of robberies at homes in Oakland County that authorities said were orchestrated by “transnational gangs” as well as the death of 22-year-old Leah Marie Gomez.

Gomez was killed in Grand Rapids last year by the father of her 1-year-old child, Mexican national Luis Bernal-Sosa. Gomez was sitting in her car with her daughter when Bernal-Sosa shot her multiple times, according to police.

“One is a tragedy, two is a trend. West Michigan will not accept illegal immigrants, which will make us feel unsafe in our community,” Michigan GOP Chairman Pete Hoekstra said last week.

But while Republicans have highlighted these high-profile crimes allegedly committed illegally by individuals in the country, the most recent FBI statistics reveal a continued decline in overall violent crime in the United States, following a temporary increase during the pandemic.

Numerous studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than native-born citizens. A report published by the National Academy of Sciences, based on data from the Texas Department of Public Safety from 2012 to 2018, indicates that native-born U.S. residents were more than twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes that people residing illegally in the country.

The Democrats’ argument

Democrats highlighted a bipartisan compromise to strengthen border security that Trump helped derail by letting House Republicans know he opposed it.

“There was a solution on the table. It was actually the former president who encouraged Republicans to back away from doing this,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said Monday. “I don’t have a lot of tolerance for political problems when they continue to endanger our economy and, to some extent, our people, as we saw recently in Grand Rapids.”

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Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed from New York.

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