FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Pausing the Syrian refugee program and stopping illegal immigration are winning issues for Donald Trump in his general election campaign against Hillary Clinton, supporters told PJM.
Trump’s first general election ad says, “In Hillary Clinton’s America, the system stays rigged against Americans. Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay.”
In 2015, the Obama administration released 19,723 illegal immigrants with criminal records, including traffic violations, back into U.S. communities rather than deporting them, according to data from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
PJM asked Trump’s supporters during his rally last weekend at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center if Trump should focus on other issues to gain support from more independent voters and moderate Democrats.
“By all means, illegal immigration is one of the biggest talking points of ‘Bikers for Trump’ because bikers want to see a wall built. They want Syrian refugees vetted. It doesn’t make us racist. It makes us patriots. We have to fortify our own boundaries. Liberals don’t want us to police the world but by the same token they want us to be the hotel for the world,” said Chris, a member of “Bikers for Trump” from South Carolina.
Hannah, an immigrant from Pakistan, welcomed Trump’s focus on Syrian refugees and hopes the GOP nominee will help Christian refugees.
“There are some refugees from Muslim countries that are Christians and I know they are sitting outside in Thailand, in Sri Lanka, and there are thousands. So I don’t know if Trump is going to do that or what will happen with those Christian refugees that are sitting there, and it’s been months and they are sitting there,” she said.
“UNCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is taking favors and they are promoting more Muslims to go to the third country and Christians are still behind. They are waiting, so there is discrimination going on in UNCR, too – so I don’t know but I hope Trump will do something better for those Christians who are refugees and are Christians but waiting for years now,” she added.
Krista from Fredericksburg said Trump does not need to shift his campaign’s focus in battleground states to different issues.
“No, I’m with him. I support everything he has said so I am pretty good with it,” she said.
PJM pointed out that Trump is far behind Clinton in Virginia.
“That’s OK. He’s going to come up,” she replied.
Clinton is ahead of Trump by 12.8 points in the RealClearPolitics polling average. Losing Virginia would make Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes much more difficult. Virginia is ranked sixth on FiveThirtyEight’s list of states that could tip the election.
Trump is hoping to win over voters outside of the Beltway, Richmond and the southern harbor cities, which delivered the state’s 13 electoral votes to President Obama, a Democrat, in 2008 and 2012. Former President George W. Bush, a Republican, won Virginia in 2000 and 2004.
Bishop Jefferson Porter was asked for his opinion of claims that Trump is appealing to white nationalists with his positions on Syrian refugees and illegal immigration.
“I’ve met Mr. Trump personally so I don’t view him as racist. I view him as very friendly, a family man, very warm, very gentle, so I don’t look at him like that and me, I’ve been a Trump supporter since day one when he announced he was running for the presidency,” he said at the rally.
Porter added that he has attended the meetings Trump has held with pastors and bishops as a member of the Trump diversity coalition.
“I don’t see no racist element with Mr. Trump. A lot of times what it is is the liberal left taking statements out of context,” he said.
Leon Benjamin of Richmond echoed some of Porter’s comments about Trump.
“He’s not a racist. I’ve had a chance to meet him and personally talk with him and to understand his heart. He doesn’t even have to really do this. He could have stayed on the business end and keep doing what he is doing. He has really taken a lot of hits to stand up for people whether it be white, black, Latino, immigrants – he’s really taken a lot of hits he didn’t really have to take, so I commend him for that,” he said.
Benjamin also had a message specifically for African-American voters; in a Fox News poll this month Trump registered just 1 percent support among the demographic.
“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. Don’t just go along with the status quo — see what’s going on. I think there’s an awakening that’s about to happen for African-Americans that they are really going to truly see what type of demonstrative machine that has been going on within the Democratic Party and, again, it’s not about politics anymore. It’s about really seeing the principles and the issues that have been hurting all of us — black, white, red, brown, yellow — it’s been hurting all of us,” Benjamin said at the rally.
“We need somebody that’s going to be in that office that really stands up for what people really need — people need jobs, people need good education, people need safe neighborhoods, they need protected borders. These are not things we can compromise right now. America has been compromised and we have to bring America back to the standard in which she is known for, and make America great again is not a cliche, it’s actually a movement, OK? It’s something that needs to happen and needs to happen now,” he added.
Greg from Fredericksburg said admitting no additional Syrian refugees and stopping illegal immigration are issues Trump should emphasize.
“Right now, no, those are pretty important. I want to keep America’s borders safe. I want to keep us safe inside the United States. I’ve got kids – 20 and 19 – and I want to keep them safe and I think we need stronger vetting practices,” he said.
Charlie from Fredericksburg also said Trump is focusing on the right issues in his first general election ad.
“I like those two issues because it’s happening to us – taking away our jobs, and I think he’s got the right game plan,” he said.
A young voter who declined to be identified said he would like to see Trump focus on Clinton more in the general election campaign.
“How to get rid of Hillary – get her in jail or how to get her out of the show,” he said.