Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this week confirmed his position that he does not support any path to citizenship or amnesty for the over 11 million undocumented aliens living in the United States.
“For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry under the rules of the new legal immigration system,” Trump declared.
Trump also pledged to repeal President Obama’s executive orders – known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) – stopping the deportation of young undocumented immigrants and their parents, including children and young adults born in the United States to undocumented parents.
Trump also doubled-down on his call for building a new wall between the two countries.
“We will build a great wall along the Southern border,” Trump said to a cheering crowd of supporters that broke into chants of “Build the wall!”. “And Mexico will pay for the wall. 100%. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for the wall,” Trump added.
Trump’s comments during a speech in Phoenix on Wednesday followed a quick trip to Mexico City earlier in the day to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. During their joint press conference after the meeting, Trump seemed reserved and complemented the Mexican president and did not mention any of his controversial immigration positions. The two met in alone in a private meeting but later differed on the details of the conversation.
President Peña Nieto tweeted after the meeting that he stressed to Trump that Mexico would not pay for the wall, even though Trump maintained that the topic of payment was not discussed.
“At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall,” President Peña Nieto wrote in Spanish on his Twitter feed after the meeting.
Trump’s comments during his speech were much more direct and forceful that they appeared to be while meeting with Peña Nieto. During the speech, Trump again portrayed “illegal aliens” as posing a danger to Americans.
“If we can save American lives, American jobs and American futures, together we can save America itself,” Trump said.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign quickly characterized Trump’s trip to Mexico as an attempt to appear diplomatic, and criticized Trump for not mentioning his tough positions on immigration to the Mexican president, including his claim that he will force Mexico to pay for his proposed wall.
“Donald Trump has made his outlandish policy of forcing Mexico to pay for his giant wall, the centerpiece of his campaign. But at the first opportunity to make good on his offensive campaign promises, Trump choked,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta stated in a written campaign release.
Hillary Clinton herself posted a message criticizing Trump’s Mexico trip.
“Trump just failed his first foreign test. Diplomacy isn’t as easy as it looks. –H” read the message on the official Hillary Clinton Twitter feed which was signed with her personal signature, a single capital H.
Many Republican political strategists had argued that Trump could use the trip to Mexico to raise his profile on the International stage and appear much more presidential. After the meeting, some argued Trump has finally started to pivot to a more conventional campaign style in hopes of expanding his appeal among more centralist voters.
But Wednesday night, the Donald Trump that beat 15 Republican challengers during the primary elections seemed to be back as he railed against illegal immigration in Phoenix.
Trump reiterated his pledged to create a “deportation task force”, but this time he added more details to his plan. Trump said the deportation force would be within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and be “focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal aliens in America” and also said he would increase the number of federal agents to enforce existing laws.
In his speech, Trump also said that any undocumented immigrants caught crossing into the US would be “detained until they are removed from our country” and returned to their home country. Trump retold stories of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants and invited parents of some victims to speak during his event.
Trump painted a picture of a dangerous environment created by undocumented immigrants and told the crowd that electing him could end illegal immigration.
“This is it. We won’t get another opportunity — it will be too late,” Trump said at the rally. “If we can save American lives, American jobs and American futures, together we can save America itself,” Trump concluded.