Trump is using the murder of a woman to further his anti-immigration agenda. Here’s what to know

Ruby Garcia, 25, was shot dead in Michigan last month. Now her death is being used as part of the former president’s campaign to return to the White House

Ariana Baio
Tuesday 02 April 2024 20:07 BST
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


In a rally speech on Tuesday afternoon in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Donald Trump used the recent murder of a young woman to criticise President Joe Biden’s border policies.

As part of his campaign for president, Mr Trump has used incendiary rhetoric about the US-Mexico border, migrants and crime to promote his anti-immigration border policies and stoke fear about the current state of the border.

In doing so on Tuesday, Mr Trump spoke about Ruby Garcia, a 25-year-old Michigan resident who law enforcement officials say was murdered by 25-year-old Brandon Ortiz-Vite, a man from Mexico who Garcia was romantically involved with.

Ortiz-Vite was in the United States illegally, a fact that several conservatives have used to broadly claim that the people crossing the US-Mexico border are dangerous and blame President Biden for allowing them in.

But several politicians are criticising Mr Trump and his allies for appearing to capitalise on the death of a young person to make a political point.

Even Garcia’s sister posted on social media asking reporters to stop using Garcia’s story to turn it into “political bull****”.

Donald Trump is making his stance on immigration a key part of his re-election bid
Donald Trump is making his stance on immigration a key part of his re-election bid (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

On 22 March, Garcia was found dead on the shoulder of US-131 at Leonard Street in Grand Rapids having sustained multiple gunshot wounds. State troopers said a preliminary investigation indicated foul play was suspected.

Garcia’s family told local news outlet News 8 Wood TV that her death was shocking because she was a peaceful and private person.

They described her as someone who always made other people laugh, was passionate about travelling and who loved plants. The 25-year-old worked at a local greenhouse and was one of five siblings.

During the investigation, law enforcement officials tracked Garcia’s stolen vehicle to a residential area north of South Haven and determined the man she was romantically involved with, Brandon Ortiz-Vite, was a person of interest.

Ortiz-Vite, 25, contacted police the day after to set up questioning. He told police he shot Garcia multiple times during an argument and dropped her body on the side of the road, driving away in her vehicle.

He was charged with felony murder, open murder, carjacking, carrying a concealed weapon and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and is currently being held at the Kent County Jail. 

Ortiz-Vite is a Mexican citizen and had entered the United States unlawfully sometime before May 2019 but received approval for deferred actions under the DACA programme, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement.

His status under DACA expired in May of 2019 but after he was arrested on charges related to driving while intoxicated in August of 2020 he was arrested by Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and in September 2020, an immigration judge ordered his removal.

Some time between then and now, Ortiz-Vite re-entered the US without inspection by an immigration official, an ICE spokesperson said. Upon his arrest in connection to the murder of Garcia, ICE officials lodged an immigration detainer with the Kent County Jail.

But Ortiz-Vite’s immigration status has become the talking point of the tragic death of Garcia – much like the conversation around 22-year-old Laken Riley’s death.

Senate candidate Kari Lake unfoundedly stated that Garcia’s death was the result of Mr Biden’s “catch-and-release-policy” and used Garcia’s death to promote her border policies.

Texas Representative Lance Gooden said President Biden “let [Garcia’s] killer back into the United States” despite no confirmation from authorities regarding when Ortiz-Vite re-entered.

Michigan Representative Elissa Slotkin told CNN it was “gruesome” of Mr Trump and his allies to use the “domestic violence homicide” for political purposes. She went on to criticise them for failing to enact real change with the bipartisan legislation that included measures to “secure” the border.

“The thing that no one is missing is that for all the talk that the former president and his allies have about the border and ‘all we need to do secure the border’ they will not let us vote on a bipartisan package the Republicans presented a few weeks ago,” Ms Slotkin said.

Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, where Mr Trump was speaking, acknowledged that there was a “real problem on our southern border” but pointed out that the former president had sunk a bipartisan deal to increase security there, apparently so that he could keep campaigning on the issue.

She said: "There was a solution on the table. It was actually the former president that encouraged Republicans to walk away from getting it done. I don't have a lot of tolerance for political points when it continues to endanger our economy and, to some extent, our people as we saw play out in Grand Rapids recently."

Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks said in a statement that Garcia’s death “is a tragic instance of domestic violence, and is made even more tragic when it is co-opted by those wishing to score political points by stoking fear, xenophobia, and division.”

“We know that immigrants (of all statutes) have contributed in ways too numerous to count as parents, business owners, neighbors, employees, church members, community leaders, and friends,” Ms Brinks added.

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