In his acceptance speech Thursday night, Republican nominee Donald J. Trump painted a dark picture of America, and doubled down on his anti-immigration rhetoric that has dominated his campaign.
Speaking for more than 76 minutes – beating Bill Clinton’s record for the longest acceptance speech in modern history – Trump shouted his way through a speech that portrayed the country as crime ridden, in economic despair, and threatened by illegal immigrantion that he vowed to fix.
“Nearly 180,000 people with criminal records ordered deported from our country are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens,” Trump said. “We are going to build a great border wall,” Trump said, promising “this will stop drugs, crime and violence.”
The supportive crowd of Republican delegates in Cleveland’s Quicken Loan Center chanted “build a wall” in response to the pledge. Trump reiterated the stories told by speakers during Monday night’s speeches about victims murdered by undocumented immigrants.
“We heard from three parents whose children were killed by illegal immigrants. They are just three brave representatives
of many thousands,” Trump said.
Trump also spoke about the time he has spent with parents “who have lost their children to violence spilling over the border”, again taking pains to connect murders to immigrants, and painting a picture of a lawless border.
Then, in a pivot to economic themes, Trump blamed immigration for a weak
“Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher
unemployment for our citizens, especially for African Americans and Latino workers,” Trump said.
During his speech, Trump also chided Clinton for supporting sanctuary cities – cities that do not engage in deportation of undocumented immigrants – and alleged nothing has provided protection for the families of victims of criminal immigrants.
“Where was the sanctuary for Kate Steinle – all of the other Americans who have been so brutally murdered and who have suffered so horribly,” he said. “These families were alone, but they’re not alone any longer,” he said to cheers.
Trump stopped short of reiterating his call to deport millions of undocumented immigrants but also gave the mistaken impression that border enforcement has been reduced during President Obama’s two terms in office.
A recent study by the Center for Migration Studies found that total undocumented immigrants in the United States declined to 10.9 million in 2014, the lowest population in the last 10 years.
“The undocumented immigrant population has declined by an average of almost 200,000 each year since 2008,” the report reads.
Trump also gave an unfair characterization of the Obama administration’s level of deportations. During Obama’s first six years in office, over 2.4 million people were deported, compared to 1.65 million people deported during the entire eight years of George W. Bush’s administration.
Trump called out what he termed the “radical and dangerous immigration policy of Hillary Clinton”, citing her support for a pathway to citizenship and deferred action on deportations of children and families.
“My plan is the exact opposite of the radical and dangerous immigration policy of Hillary Clinton. Americans want relief from uncontrolled immigration,” Trump said . “Yet Hillary Clinton is proposing mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness,” he added.
Trump wasn’t the only speaker at the Republican Convention to blame crime on immigrants. Jamail Shaw, Sr. spoke on Monday night and recalled how he was on the phone with his son when gang members killed him.
“We learned the killer was an illegal alien gang banger from Mexico,” Shaw said during his speech.
As Mr. Shaw spoke, the delegates chanted “build the wall”.
“The wall, build the wall,” Shaw responded to the crowd. “Only Trump mentions Americans killed by illegals. Trump will put America first. Not crooked Hillary.”
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 40 Latino groups, has criticized the Convention for its heated rhetoric against immigrants.
“Yes, it’s horrific when crime is committed in this country by anyone and it’s certainly horrific if that crime is a murder,” said Brent Wilkes, the executive director of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the country’s oldest Latino advocacy group. “If you are afraid of murder in this country you are much more likely to be murdered by a U.S. citizen than an undocumented immigrant,” Wilkes said.
Some Latino leaders claim that the anti-immigrant context is even more disturbing because it pits Latinos against African-Americans. Dr. Elena Rios, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, pointed out that two of the convention speakers described crimes by undocumented immigrants that were African American.
“For blacks and Latinos to be pitted against each other is a very divisive approach and that’s what happened last night,” Rios said.