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Trump Visits Border Wall To Show Off A Signature Election Promise

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

President Trump made a trip yesterday to the southern border. He went to highlight his immigration agenda, which he calls one of the signature accomplishments of his presidency. But the turmoil surrounding his defeat and the attack at the U.S. Capitol followed him. NPR's John Burnett reports from McAllen.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORNS HONKING)

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: They lined South 10th Street, adoring throngs festooned with MAGA hats and Trump 2020 flags, as though their candidate still had a chance.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Stolen election. It's a stolen election. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Trump all the way. Four more years, Trump.

BURNETT: The president flew into the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday for a ceremony marking the completion of 450 miles of border wall. He signed a plaque on the steel and concrete edifice and addressed an audience of green-uniformed Border Patrol agents, who'd been his stalwart supporters.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We've worked long and hard to get this done. They said it couldn't be done. And we got it done, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the history of our country.

BURNETT: With Joe Biden ready to take office in eight days and vowing to dismantle most of Trump's immigration policies, the outgoing president had a warning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: If our border security measures are reversed, it will trigger a tidal wave of illegal immigration, a wave like you've never seen before. And I can tell you that already.

BURNETT: In his speech, Trump recited a litany of untruths about the border on his watch, that no administration had built border walls before him. Actually, President George W. Bush did. That his policy of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico ended a humanitarian crisis - in fact, it caused one. And that he won Texas border towns in November - Trump did better than past Republicans, but the border stayed blue. Yet it was impossible on this chilly, overcast day for him to ignore the drama unfolding in Washington, where the House of Representatives prepared to impeach him again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country. And it's causing tremendous anger and division and pain.

BURNETT: That anger and division was evident among the folks who joined the Trump train in McAllen. Duane Olson (ph), a 60-year-old farmer from Iowa who winters in south Texas, says he watched the insurrection at the Capitol with dismay.

DUANE OLSON: I thought that was wrong. And they shouldn't have never done that. But it's the people themselves that got out of control. He did not himself entice them to do that. And for him to be impeached because of that is wrong.

BURNETT: Though they were mightily outnumbered, a cluster of young anti-Trump activists held a corner amid the MAGA crowd. Zack Borha (ph) is a 22-year-old college student who says they often scuffle with the Trump trains that roar through town almost every weekend.

ZACK BORHA: We're here, essentially, to go ahead and let Donald Trump know that not only is he not welcome here in the Valley, but his white supremacist values and neo-fascist ideas are never welcome here in the Rio Grande Valley.

BURNETT: Just then, a jeep zooms past with a flag that reads Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president.

BORHA: That's my favorite flag. I love that flag. It is so - I swear to God, that is a flag straight out of "Parks And Rec."

BURNETT: Fearing a repeat of the violence that broke out in Washington last week, a larger anti-Trump rally was held miles from the president's motorcade route. The featured speaker was Julian Castro, former San Antonio mayor and HUD secretary under President Obama.

JULIAN CASTRO: But the most significant thing about the Trump presidency is not the wall that he's built around us, it's the wall that he has built between us. And what we're here to say today is that we've had enough of that division and hate and bigotry. We have had enough. (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Non-English language spoken).

BURNETT: A couple of hours later, the president's helicopter squadron passed overhead to an airport where Air Force One would carry Donald Trump back to the White House, and this crowd hopes, marking the end of the Trump saga and not another mile of border wall.

John Burnett, NPR News, McAllen, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.