At a Grand Rapids, Michigan, campaign event on Tuesday, former President Donald Trump told his supporters that he had spoken to the family of Ruby Garcia, a 25-year-old woman who was allegedly murdered by an undocumented immigrant.

But Garcia’s sister said Trump didn’t speak with anyone from the family, and she criticized him for politicizing her sister’s death.

“He did not speak with any of us,” Ruby’s sister, Marvi Garcia, said in an interview with NBC affiliate WOOD-TV. “So it’s kind of shocking seeing that he had said he had spoken with us … misinforming people on live TV,” she said. 

When asked to confirm if Trump had indeed spoken with a member of Ruby Garcia’s family, the Trump campaign declined to comment on the record. A source familiar said the campaign keeps the details of whom he speaks to and the contents of the conversations private unless the family agrees to share them.

Donald Trump.
Former President Donald Trump.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Garcia said that neither Trump nor anyone working on his presidential campaign spoke to any of her family members. She made clear she resented the former president for politicizing the death of her sister, whose body was found on a highway with gunshot wounds in late March.

“It’s always been about illegal immigrants,” she said. “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 this?”

She added that hearing Trump’s claim was “shocking” and that she stopped watching his remarks after that.

At Trump’s Tuesday event, he said, “Ruby’s loved ones and community are left grieving for this incredible young woman remembering what they called her. They said she had just the most contagious laughter and when she walked into a room, she lit up that room, and I’ve heard that from so many people. I spoke to some of her family.”

Trump told Detroit radio host Justin Barclay on Monday ahead of the campaign stop that “I’d love to have [Garcia] family there. If they’d like to be there. It’d be my honor. And I’ll make sure they get back and see you can coordinate with my people.”

Garcia’s family didn’t respond to several requests for further comment from NBC News.

According to WOOD-TV, court records show the suspect, Brandon Ortiz-Vite, confessed to killing Garcia and dumping her along a highway in Grand Rapids. At the Michigan event Tuesday, Trump claimed that Ortiz-Vite had been deported in 2020 and returned to the U.S., illegally, during the Biden administration. 

A statement obtained from a spokesperson at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement noted that it is accurate that Ortiz-Vite was removed to Mexico on Sept. 29, 2020, when Mr. Trump was still president, but it’s unclear when he returned. The ICE statement said that Ortiz-Vite returned to the U.S. “at an unknown date and location … without inspection by an immigration official.” 

According to ICE, Ortiz-Vite’s DACA status expired in May 19, 2019. He was arrested on local charges on Aug. 30, 2020, before being deported that September.

Trump at his campaign events frequently highlights crime rates in the U.S. and regularly points the blame at migrants. For example, he has repeatedly brought up the death of a college student, Laken Riley, who was killed in February in Georgia while jogging. The suspect was a Venezuelan citizen who entered the U.S. illegally in 2022.

Ahead of Tuesday’s event, Democrats criticized Trump for attempting to “politicize a tragedy.”

In a statement ahead of the rally, Biden-Harris 2024 Michigan Communications Director Alyssa Bradley said, “Donald Trump is coming to Grand Rapids where he is expected to once again try to politicize a tragedy and sow hate and division to hide from his own record of failing Michiganders.”

In a call with reporters Tuesday morning, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said that “Ruby Garcia‘s death was a horrible tragedy” but that “Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans are hell-bent on exploiting Ruby‘s death for their own politics.”

“Frankly, I think it’s shameful,” she added.

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