GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Donald Trump used his campaign event in Michigan on Tuesday to denounce what he called “Biden’s border bloodbath,” zeroing in on the case of a young woman killed by someone immigration officials say had entered the country illegally.

“She lit up that room, and I’ve heard that from so many people,” Trump said at a news conference in the hometown of the 25-year-old victim, Ruby Garcia. “I spoke to some of her family.”

But Garcia’s sister, acting as a family spokeswoman, said Tuesday that Trump and his campaign have not contacted her or other immediate relatives — and rebuked the GOP presidential nominee’s effort to make the case part of his calls for a border crackdown.

“It’s always been about illegal immigrants,” the victim’s sister, Mavi Garcia, told local news station Target 8. “Nobody really speaks about when Americans do heinous crimes, and it’s kind of shocking why he would just bring up illegals. What about Americans who do heinous crimes like that?”

The Trump campaign did not comment Tuesday, and Trump did not mention speaking with Garcia’s family at a Wisconsin rally later Tuesday. Mavi Garcia confirmed to The Washington Post that Trump and his campaign never spoke with the family.

Trump has made immigration central to his campaign for a second term and increasingly linked the issue to crime, speaking at length at his rallies about high-profile killings police attributed to undocumented immigrants — Laken Riley in Georgia, and now Garcia in Grand Rapids, a city in one of the most hotly contested counties in one of a handful of states that could decide the presidential race. The defendant in Garcia’s case, 25-year-old Brandon Ortiz-Vite, had a previous arrest record and was deported in September 2020 under the Trump administration before finding his way back to the United States.

Democrats have emphasized evidence that undocumented immigrants do not commit more crime than legal residents — and framed Garcia’s case in Michigan as a testament to the dangers of domestic violence. Authorities say the accused was dating Ruby Garcia when he fatally shot her and left her on the roadside on March 22.

Garcia’s family members stayed away from the political firestorm around her death in the days leading up to Trump’s event, limiting their public comments to remembrances.

But Mavi Garcia elaborated on Tuesday after calling Trump’s comments “shocking.”

“He did not speak with any of us, so it was kind of shocking seeing that he had said that he had spoke with us, and misinforming people on live TV,” she told Target 8. She said she wishes Ortiz-Vite had “stayed in Mexico” but that “the focus should be on my sister right now, who she was in life.”

Ortiz-Vite has been charged with murder and other offenses.

In contrast, family members of Riley, the young woman killed in Georgia, have embraced Trump. Riley’s parents met with Trump last month before he took the stage for a rally in Rome, Ga., and Riley’s mother has criticized Biden for fumbling her daughter’s name in his State of the Union address.

Authorities say Riley, a nursing student, was killed by Jose Ibarra, a man from Venezuela who entered the United States illegally in 2022. Ibarra is charged with murder.

Trump sought to highlight both Garcia’s and Riley’s cases at his Tuesday event in Grand Rapids, where he met with members law enforcement and then spoke on immigration. A chart displayed on a big screen highlighted a surge in southern border crossings since Biden took office. Trump reiterated his promises to curtail undocumented immigration and carry out mass deportations.

Riley was “barbarically murdered by an illegal alien animal,” Trump said Tuesday. “The Democrats say, ‘Please don’t call them animals, say humans.’ I said, ‘No, they’re not humans. … They’re animals.’ Nancy Pelosi told me that. She said, ‘Please don’t use the word animals, sir, when you’re talking about these people.’ I said, ‘I’ll use the word animal because that’s what they are.’”

After Biden’s campaign highlighted the reference to “animals,” Trump’s campaign sought to clarify, suggesting in a social media post that “animals” referred to people who commit murder.

Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.

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