Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Enrique Pena Nieto. Credit Henry Romero, Reuters
By David Lawler
1 September 2016 • 6:21am
Donald Trump depicted illegal immigrants as dangerous and insisted that they would all be subject to deportation during his long-awaited immigration address on Wednesday night.
The speech drew an angry reaction from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, whom he had visited just hours earlier in a show of diplomacy.
Abandoning the diplomatic approach he had taken during the visit to Mexico, the Republican nominee delivered a barnstorming address reminiscent of his raucous primary election rallies.
After Mr Pena Nieto, Mexico’s president, contradicted his statement that payment for his proposed wall on the US Southern border had not come up during their meeting, Mr Trump did not waver in his prime time speech.
“We will build a great wall along the Southern border,” he said, pausing for emphasis before continuing: “and Mexico will pay for the wall. One hundred percent. They don’t know it yet but they’re going to pay for it.”
Donald Trump in Mexico City, August 31, 2016 with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Screengrab from TV Mexico
For two weeks, Mr Trump had appeared to signal that he would be softening his approach to illegal immigration in order to appease moderate and Hispanic voters.
There was nary an olive branch in sight during Wednesday night’s speech, a significant portion of which was devoted to American citizens who had been killed or otherwise harmed by illegal immigrants.
“Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders and enforce our laws like they have to be enforced,” he said.
He bemoaned the loss of “victims of the Obama-Clinton open border policy,” and was joined on stage by people who had lost children and spouses at the hands of illegal immigrants.
One by one they insisted that if Mr Trump had been in office sooner, their loved ones would still be alive.
Donald Trump delivers his immigration speech in Phoenix Credit: Matt York/AP
In a step that will soothe the concerns of his base but is broadly unpopular with the general electorate, Mr Trump warned all 11 million people currently in the US could face deportation if he wins the White House.
Rejecting so-called “amnesty”, he said no one would be able to gain citizenship by simply remaining in the US after entering illegally.
“People will know that you can’t just smuggle in, hunker down and wait to be legalised,” he said. “Those days are over.”
He said all undocumented immigrants who were arrested – let alone convicted – would face automatic deportation.
Mr Trump even made a tongue-in-cheek suggestion of another possible target for expulsion: “Hillary Clinton has evaded justice. Maybe they’ll be able to deport her.”
Protesters await Donald Trump’s arrival in Mexico Credit: Alex Cruz/EPA
Mr Trump said his opponents immigration strategy was to,”let everybody in and destroy the country”. He warned that if that were to come to pass, America would cease to be a sovereign nation.
The tone of the speech was dark, and his message appeared to be intended for his core constituency of white, working class voters rather than the more diverse group that will go to the polls on November 8.
It ended in trademark fashion though: “We’re going to make America great again.”
In Mexico, Mr Pena Nieto sought to defend himself against a broad swathe of criticism for his decision to invite the Republican candidate despite his repeated verbal attacks on Mexico.
“His policy stances could represent a huge threat to Mexico, and I am not prepared to keep my arms crossed and do nothing,” Mr Pena Nieto said in a late evening television interview.
“That risk, that threat, must be confronted. I told him that is not the way to build a mutually beneficial relationship for both nations.”
Among those who criticised Mr Pena Nieto was Ricardo Anaya, leader of the center-right opposition National Action Party.
“Instead of making him apologise, the government allowed (Trump) to complete the humiliation of the Mexicans,” Mr Anaya said on Twitter.
Donald Trump on Mexico
— “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”
–Mexico is “ripping off the US more than almost any other nation”
–“Mexico continues to make billions on not only our bad trade deals but also relies heavily on the billions of dollars in remittances sent from illegal immigrants in the United States”
–“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words”
Tags: Donald Trump, Enrique Pena Nieto, illegal immigrants, immigration, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico, National Action Party, News, politics, Ricardo Anaya, Trump, We will build a great wall along the Southern border, We're going to make America great again