For years, Patrick Bray has heard the same line from conservative politicians visiting Arizona: Vote for me and I’ll secure the border.
And for years, he and other cattle ranchers in Maricopa County have thrown their support behind presidents, senators and representatives only to be disappointed.
In Bray’s view, Donald Trump’s speech this week promising deportation squads and a “great wall” was, at least for now, just more talk.
“We’ve heard speeches after speeches,” Bray said. “We only care about who can get the job done.”
If Trump was looking for a warm reception for his harsh remarks, Arizona was prime territory.
Anti-immigration rhetoric has fueled the careers of many politicians there, including three who appeared onstage with Trump: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and Gov. Doug Ducey.
But the speech seemed unlikely to win Trump many new supporters there.
Arizona voters have been hearing about immigration for so long that there’s not much anybody can say to change their minds, said Brad Jones, a political scientist at UC Davis.
His research suggests that tough rhetoric on immigration resonates most in places that did not have significant Latino populations until the last two decades, called “new destination states.”
“If a Republican prioritizes an immigration issue, then the message is one of enforcement, one of cracking down,” Jones said. “The places that listen are those interior red states.”
In traditional “receiving” states — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — residents are used to immigrants and unlikely to be swayed by political rhetoric, his research has found.
Trump played to some of the worst fears about immigrants in the country illegally, saying that some had been “convicted of killings, sexual assaults and some of the most heinous crimes imaginable.”
“President Obama and Hillary Clinton have engaged in gross dereliction of duty by surrendering the safety of the American people to open borders, and you know it better than anybody right here in Arizona,” he said.
Bray said he heard similar rhetoric when former President George W. Bush was seeking reelection in 2004 and when Republican Mitt Romney ran for president four years ago.
“The people living down there are outmanned and outgunned,” Bray said. “For them, it’s a matter of life or death.”
Trump’s calls for more surveillance technology along the border found favor with at least one constituency: U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Their union, the National Border Patrol Council, had already endorsed Trump and expressed dissatisfaction with his opponent, Clinton.
“To our deep dismay and concern, the Clinton Immigration Plan embraces and expands the Obama policies that created the ‘Era of No Consequences,’ ” the union said in a statement on Sunday.
Trump said he wants to create more Border Patrol stations, hire 5,000 more agents and “put more of them on the border instead of behind desks.”