President Donald Trump held another self-energizing rally in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday and hit many of his favored talking points: the Hillary Clinton email scandal, the exaggerated scourge of the MS-13 gang and his newly mandated “Space Force.”
But one topic was conspicuously absent for much of his speech — immigration.
Just hours after the White House backed away from its practice of separating undocumented children from their parents, Trump barely spoke about the controversy, and, as usual, went after his political adversaries instead.
“The Democrats want open borders … let ’em come in from the Middle East, let them come in from all over the place. We’re not going to let it happen,” Trump told cheering crowds.
“We’re going to keep families together, but the border’s going to be just as tough as it’s been. Democrats don’t care about the impact of uncontrolled migration on your community … your schools or your hospitals.”
He continued to berate Democrats amid cheers of “Build that wall,” and claimed the U.S. still wanted people to enter the country, but only “through merit, not just through luck or happenstance.”
Then he moved on.
The rest of the rally was standard fare. Twice, Trump broke from his prepared remarks to yell at protesters in the crowd.
“Get him out of here,” Trump said. “Go home to your mom, darling.”
He took aim again at a protesting man with long hair.
“Is that a man or a woman?” he said as the crowd went wild. “He needs a haircut more than I do!”
He also took time to remind the crowd of the “Space Force” he plans to establish, which he first said Monday would be an extraterrestrial military program “separate but equal” to the Air Force.
“We’re reopening NASA,” Trump said. “We’re going to be going to space. Space Force! Space Force!”
Trump has often used his rallies to focus heavily on immigration and conjure up images of brutal gang members crossing the border, so his relatively quick treatment of the topic was notable.
But his administration bowed to a tidal wave of political pressure on Wednesday when he signed an executive order to prevent further family separations. Trump’s order says authorities would try to detain families together from now on, but it’s unclear what will happen to the more than 2,300 children who have already been removed from their parents.
Previously, Trump had attempted to falsely accuse Democrats of backing a “law” that required authorities to take children from their parents. In fact, it was his own Justice Department that announced the policy last month. Many of the thousands of children affected are being held in juvenile detention centers, in enclosures that have been described as cages and some “tender age” shelters set up for babies and younger kids.
“We’re going to have strong, very strong, borders, but we are going to keep the families together,” Trump said at the White House during the signing of the executive order on Wednesday. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
CORRECTION: This story misidentified the location of Duluth. It is in Minnesota, not Montana.