Donald Trump Rally Syracuse

Donald Trump's focus on loss of jobs resonates with Syracuse crowd

With his visit to Syracuse, the GOP frontrunner became the latest presidential candidate to stop in Central New York before Tuesday's state primary.

Around 5,000 people came to the Nicholas J. Pirro Convention Center in Syracuse on Saturday to hear Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Despite accusations that the businessman is anti-immigrant and anti-intellectual, a member of both groups was at the rally.

Retired orthopedic physician Fred Bejani traveled from New Jersey to show his support for Trump.

See more video and coverage of the Trump rally protests

“I came here because it was the land of milk and honey, but frankly, if I were trying to come here now? I probably would stay where I was,” Bejani said.  

In 1981, the 59-year-old emigrated from France, where he attended medical school, and Lebanon before that. He holds a doctorate degree from New York University, and he doesn’t believe that Trump’s immigration policies are radical or racist.

“I go all over the world to build hospitals, and everybody wants to come here. They’re dying to get here,” Bejani said. “Imagine you open the borders — this population will triple overnight. You can’t do it. Even if you want to, there’s so much demand. It’s like removing a dam.”

In his speech, Trump didn’t hold back from talking about immigration, the issue that initially catapulted him to the front page and drew thousands to his initial speeches.

“We’re going to build a great wall,” Trump said, eliciting raucous cheering from the crowd. He asked who would pay for the wall, with a uniform response of “Mexico!” from the thousands in attendance.

Throughout his appearance, protesters who had woven into the throng of supporters intermittently shouted chants and pulled out signs before being escorted out by police. Ten to 12 people in all were removed.

A group of five Marcellus Sr. High School students wore pro-Trump T-shirts. Two of them will be eligible to vote on Tuesday.

“I feel like he could be a great leader,” said 18-year-old Nick Sonnacchio. Chris Fragnito, 17, agreed, and he wasn’t worried about Trump losing the nomination at the convention in July.

“We don’t even have to worry about that situation. We’ll have all the delegates before we even get there,” Fragnito said, despite the fact that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is slowly accruing delegates and pushing toward a brokered convention. “He gets more popular the longer he stays in the race.”

Trump didn’t seem worried, repeatedly speaking about how many friends he has in Syracuse and how high his poll numbers are. He also addressed the loss of manufacturing jobs to hit Syracuse in the last several years, mentioning the Carrier Corporation’s recent exodus to Mexico, which resonated with the crowd.

“Syracuse lost 40 percent of its manufacturing jobs since 2001,” Trump said. “When I’m elected president, we’re going to have jobs coming to Syracuse, coming to New York, coming all over the country.”

The hall was emptier than it had been on Tuesday when Sen. Bernie Sanders visited Syracuse, but the supporters were no less enthusiastic.

Bejani seemed hopeful about the outcome, but worried about consequences of a Trump loss. He didn’t have the sure confidence of the young Marcellus bunch.

“We’ve got Bernie Sanders gaining so much momentum, and that scares me, even if he doesn’t win,” Bejani said. “I have a 14-, a 12- and a 9-year-old — born here, American — and I’m really afraid for their future.”

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