Immigrants 'building army' to attack Americans: Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has claimed without evidence that immigrants from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere were "building an army" to attack Americans "from within," once again using inflammatory rhetoric about migrants in the US illegally.

During a rally on Thursday in the mainly Hispanic and Black neighbourhood of New York City's South Bronx, Trump sought to portray migrants from China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other countries as a violent threat, even as studies show immigrants are not more likely to engage in criminality.

"Almost everyone is a male and they look like fighting age. I think they're building an army," Trump said to a few thousand supporters who gathered to hear him in the South Bronx's Crotona Park.

"They want to get us from within."

Election 2024 Trump
Supporters of Donald Trump gather during a campaign rally in the south Bronx, New York. (AP PHOTO)

Throughout his campaign, Trump has repeatedly used incendiary language to accuse immigrants in the US illegally of fuelling violent crime, calling them "animals" responsible for "poisoning the blood" of the country. As evidence, he points to individual instances of crimes, rather than aggregate data.

"We are not going to let these people come in and take our city away from us and take our country away," Trump said, vowing to carry out "the largest criminal deportation operation in our country's history" if re-elected to the White House.

Trump also sought to tie record levels of migrants caught crossing the US-Mexico border illegally with the economic plight of Black and Hispanic voters, arguing, without evidence, that migrants were taking their jobs.

Trump's decision to speak in the Bronx was in part a matter of convenience. His campaign schedule has been crimped by his trial in New York on charges he falsified business records to hide a hush money payment to a porn star. In April, he made a campaign appearance at a convenience store in Harlem, New York.

Trump is locked in a tight race with Democratic President Joe Biden ahead of the November 5 election. The Bronx rally was part of his effort to exploit Biden's weakening support among Hispanic and Black voters.

Recent polls suggest the Trump is gaining ground with Blacks and Hispanics, who were critical to Biden's win in 2020. Trump strategists see a chance to grab enough of their votes to make the difference in swing states in November.

In a New York Times/Siena College poll in March, Trump was selected by 23 per cent of Black and 46 per cent of Hispanic respondents in a one-on-one match-up with Biden. That is far higher than the 12 per cent of Black and 32 per cent of Hispanic voters Trump won in 2020, according to Edison Research exit polls.

Political analysts have attributed weakening support for Biden among voters of colour in part to the outsized impact of inflation on people living pay cheque to pay cheque.