DULUTH, Minn. — President Trump’s decision Wednesday to stop splitting up the families that are caught illegally crossing the southern border was — like nearly all of his decisions — praised and celebrated by his strongest supporters.
“It’s a good thing; it’s keeping kids with their parents,” said Al Enz, 58, who works in construction in southern Minnesota and drove about four hours to this waterfront city to attend the president’s Wednesday night campaign rally.
His 33-year-old son, Aric Enz, added: “There’s one way that the families could stay together — they could stay in their home country. I don’t understand why we have to provide for them.”
As thousands of the president’s supporters waited for hours outside the rally venue in the hot June sun, many of them said that there’s no easy solution to the migrant crisis on the southern border — but they applauded the president for doing his best and criticized the media for focusing so heavily on the issue.
In April, the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy for those who illegally cross the border, and officials began detaining offenders — and taking away their children, who were detained separately. Since the policy was implemented, the government has separated more than 2,000 children from their parents.
Trump has falsely said that this is happening because of a law passed by Democrats, even though it’s because of a policy that his administration implemented. He repeatedly said that only Congress could stop the separations from happening — but on Wednesday, he changed course and signed an executive order to stop the practice.
Many of Trump’s supporters said Wednesday that they don’t see this as giving in — it’s the president doing the right thing and stepping up to do what members of Congress, especially Democrats, failed to do, they said.
“Trump ‘gave in,’ he signed it — whatever you want to call it,” said Joel Domke, 53, a sales rep from Woodbury, Minn., which is about 150 miles from Duluth. “But now the pressure is on the Democrats. … The Democrats need to step up. I haven’t heard any plans from them. All I’ve heard is ‘No, no, no.’ ”
Domke traveled to the rally with his friend Brian Johnston, and the two wore red campaign hats and smoked cigars as they waited in line for the rally. They said that they would rather see action through legislation than through executive order but Trump had no other choice in this “mess” and was right to act on his own.
“Politics is a give-and-take,” said Johnston, 58, an operations manager who also lives in Woodbury. “It’s a negotiation, and Trump gave some. I think it’s a wonderful resolution.”
The two friends added that they aren’t sure what information reported by the media to believe these days, and Johnston said he’s not sure he can trust everything that Trump tweets and says.
Also waiting in line was a woman in her 60s who lives just outside of Duluth and said that if these migrant parents cared about these children, they wouldn’t try to illegally cross the border. Her husband compared children separated from their parents with fetuses that are aborted, asking why Democrats don’t equally care about both. Farther back in the line, a 54-year-old mother said she wished the media reported on the “good things” happening in this situation, like the federal government stepping up to feed and care for the children.
A small group of protesters gathered near the rally line, and a much larger group gathered farther away at a major intersection. While several protesters said they are grateful that Trump responded to public pressure to stop splitting up families, they added that they aren’t sure if they can trust that this executive order will actually make the situation better.
“I don’t know what to even say. I hope it’s true,” said Jessica Norman, 35, who grew up in Duluth and now lives in California but was in town for her brother’s wedding. She protested outside the rally with her 18-year-old niece and brought along a handful of cardboard signs, including one that read: “Power to the peaceful. Love to the hateful.”
Susan Jordahl-Bubacz, the executive director of the Union Gospel Mission in Duluth, called Trump’s executive order “a blessing” but said that she’s still worried about the way migrant families are treated and alarmed by the president’s attitude on human rights issues.
“Where are our morals? Where have our hearts gone?” said Jordahl-Bubacz, 56, who said that she was once a political moderate but has evolved into a liberal over the past eight years.
And she’s increasingly concerned by the inaccurate information that the president has been spreading.
“The propaganda that’s out there has become a machine and it’s getting bigger and bigger,” she said, giving the example of Trump repeatedly claiming that there was a law requiring that families be split up, even though there is no such law. “It’s propaganda. Please, as Americans, don’t be sheep.”