A sea of red hats and red shirts surrounded the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho last night as Trump supporters gathered to chant and shout their patriotism. When he came three years ago, headlines highlighted the violent reaction to his visit to Albuquerque, though hundreds had protested peacefully for hours before that went down. This time, his campaign painted New Mexico as a winnable swing state, saying he had growing support among Hispanic voters.
The long lines of ticket-holders waiting hours to enter facility began chanting "USA!" while anti-Trump demonstrators beat a drum.
Susan Wood stood on the sidewalk next to the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, peering into the distance, looking for Trump’s motorcade. She was wearing a red baseball cap like many in the crowd. Still, she said, she’s not into politics. "This would make the third president in my lifetime to see, so ... " she said.
But it's not that she just wants to see any president. She likes President Trump, she added, and wants to make sure the country avoids socialism. "And I think we need to keep God and Jesus still back in our forefront, and he has done that. He has brought it back."
Does she think her life's gotten better since he took office? "You know, I can't complain," Wood said.
She doesn't generally read news reports about Trump's policy decisions, she said, but looks sometimes for things that pertain to her. Primarily, she finds out what's going on through Facebook.
Lisa Lucero was one of the anti-Trump demonstrators. They chanted "Jesus was a refugee!" as a group.
"We’re making a stand," she said. "And I’m here to protest Trump. You know, he shouldn’t be coming to our state. And he doesn’t have any business being a president actually."
Lucero said she’s here to fight immigration policies that incarcerate and harm children, and separate families.
Throughout his campaigning, Trump’s capitalized on lobbing broad, inflammatory remarks during these rallies, drawing protests and criticism that only seem to fuel his celebrity. Does Having a counter-protest end up amplifying the president in the end? "No," Lucero said. "You have to do something. You can’t sit at home and do nothing. You have to make a stand. You can’t just yell at the TV. It’s not like that anymore. This is our lives. This is our world, our Mother Earth. We have to be out here."
Lucero was bummed that the demonstrations got split between the Trump event and Tiguex Park in Albuquerque, she says, because some folks felt fearful. It made their numbers a little smaller out there.
Another protester hemmed in by police officers on the corner of the parking lot was Reenie Ramirez from Albuquerque.
“I’ve thought that Trump was racist a long time before he became president,” she said. “I don’t think we need a racist in the White House.”
Ramirez hopes to see Trump defeated next year. In 2016, he lost New Mexico by 8 points, getting 40% of the vote. Ramirez thinks it’s desperation that brought him back to campaign here.
“I mean, seriously, desperation. I think he’s got a lot of stuff pending,” she said. “They’ve just subpoenaed his tax returns, so I think we’re finally gonna see them.”
She says Trump’s looking to flip some states. “I think that because Southern NM tends to be more conservative,” said Ramirez, “I think he should’ve gone there.”
Rio Rancho also tends to be more conservative – a friendly choice for the Trump campaign compared to the more diverse and progressive city of Albuquerque in the valley below.
Joshua Fresquez from Española is in a long line of supporters stretching around the corner of the Star Center. KUNM asked if he thinks any of Trump’s policies have made things better for him in the last couple years.
“Better? Well, I’m a union worker, so most union workers don’t like Trump necessarily,” said Fresquez. “But as for me, I like the border wall. I don’t like access of drugs coming into the country, as well as illegal immigration.”
Another supporter, Valerie Herrera de Ramirez, says she doesn’t like to hear Trump’s racist remarks, but says his administration has been good for business.
“I work for a Fortune 50, multi-billion dollar corporation, and it has made a huge difference in our corporation alone,” she said. “It has increased the amount of jobs, it has saved us on certain taxes that were made.” She said she appreciates Trump’s focus on keeping jobs in the U.S.
When asked what she thinks of Trump’s immigration policies, including the use of detention camps and the separation of families on the border, Herrera de Ramirez says she doesn’t like the camps or the conditions there. "Something needs to change with that,” she said.
“But the [border] wall – I don’t want my tax dollars to have anything to do with that, but I see the reason for it.” She says she doesn’t want to see just anyone let into the United States. “If we do that, you’re not gonna have the jobs, you’re not gonna have the resources to help our own people that need the help right now.”
The Star Center filled up, leaving hundreds of people waiting to watch the President’s speech on a jumbotron as the sun set.