Just hours after delivering subdued comments and striking a conciliatory tone alongside Mexico’s president, Donald Trump returned to form in his fiery immigration speech (full text here) in Phoenix last night, which laid out the presidential candidate’s immigration plan which definitively ruled out legal status for undocumented immigrants and once again promised to build a wall on the southern border of the U.S., saying he would force Mexico to cover the cost. “We will build a great wall,” Trump said to loud cheers “And Mexico will pay for the wall. One hundred percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for it.”
Trump lays out immigration plan. No. 1: “We will build a great wall along the southern border…and Mexico will pay” https://t.co/In8NY0SLwz
— ABC News (@ABC) September 1, 2016
The rally was at a convention center in downtown Phoenix. Trump’s warm-up speakers including Arizona Governor Doug Ducey; Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of an Arizona county who has become a symbol of the anti-illegal-immigration movement; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence. At various points in the speech, the crowd broke into chants of “build the wall!”
The speech, which presented crime prevention as the underlying rationale for his immigration policies, came just hours after Trump traveled to Mexico at the invitation of President Enrique Pena Nieto. The two men met privately and discussed a range of topics that included illegal immigration and the possibility of amending the North American Free Trade Agreement. They came away with markedly different interpretations on the question of Mexico’s willingness to pay for a wall.
“As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities. But unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement,” Trump said during the more than hour-long speech. “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation, that is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.”
But Trump made it clear that border security and removing illegal immigrants who are a threat to the country top his list of goals ahead of removing otherwise law-abiding people; he had previously called for the immediate deportation of the roughly 11 million people living in the country illegally. “Under my administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are returned,” Trump said, adding that, if he is elected president, the U.S. would “end catch-and-release” and beef up the number of police and immigration officers dedicated to handling undocumented workers.
Trump also promised to “immediately terminate” President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including a 2012 program that currently shields some 750,000 young people from deportation, Bloomberg noted.
“On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall,” he said, including plans for above- and below-ground sensor technology and increased border patrol officers.
He said a “deportation task force” and triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers would focus on swiftly removing illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes or who pose security threats. And Trump said those overstaying visas, recent arrivals and people dependent on welfare would also be on the top of the list for deportation.
To stem the flood of illegal immigration, Trump pledged to enact new “ideological certification to ensure those admitting to our country share our values and love our people.” Trump also promised to improve the nation’s monitoring system for those who overstay their visas, and to crack down on 23 countries that he said currently don’t take back citizens whom the U.S. deports.
If the U.S. elects him president in November and follows his prescription, Trump said, “crime will go down, border crossings will plummet, gangs will disappear, and welfare use will decrease.”
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The 10-point plan emphasized conservative immigration staples like ending the “catch-and-release” of undocumented immigrants, blocking federal funds for sanctuary cities, strengthening E-Verify, and deporting immigrants back to their country of origin instead of just putting them over the border. Recent rhetoric from Trump and his staff, especially surrounding mass deportations, prompted questions as to whether the campaign was planning a break from the hard-line stance he rode to victory in the primaries. Wednesday’s speech shows that the Trump team is confident in the message he has been delivering since his campaign launched.
The speech emphasized a commitment to strict enforcement of immigration laws, bashing President Obama and Hillary Clinton as promoting lawless and “deadly non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.”
“We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty. Our message to the world will be this — you cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the United States by illegally entering our country. Can’t do it.” But he left the door open to reevaluating the approach to illegal immigrants already in America once his goals have been accomplished.
“In several years, when we have accomplished all of our deportation goals and truly ended illegal immigration for good, including the construction of a great wall,” he said, “then, and only then, will we be in a position to consider the appropriate disposition of those individuals who remain.”
Wednesday’s speech shows that the Trump team is confident in the message he has been delivering since his campaign launched. The speech emphasized a commitment to strict enforcement of immigration laws, bashing President Obama and Hillary Clinton as promoting lawless and “deadly non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.”
“Clinton’s plan would trigger a constitutional crisis unlike almost anything we have ever seen before,” he said, accusing her of looking to legislate from the Oval Office. “In effect, she would be abolishing the lawmaking powers of Congress in order to write her own laws from the Oval Office — and you see what bad judgment she has.”
He swore off any type of legal status for those already in America illegally. “For those here illegally today seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only — to return home and apply for reentry like everyone else under the rules of the new immigration system,” he said.
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Trump also reiterated his opposition to the admittance of Syrian refugees and his plan to halt immigration from countries where proper screening can’t be conducted. He said the “extreme vetting” of immigrants would include questioning people about where they stand on radical Islam, honor killings and respect for gay people, women and minorities. “It’s our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us,” he said, pointing to the challenges of assimilation.
Trump’s direction became clear even before the speech started, as the speakers ahead of the rally embraced the tough immigration approach that ran through the primary. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and mothers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants warmed the crowd up for Trump, along with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Trump’s running mate Mike Pence. Before beginning to lay out his plan, Trump detailed several gruesome murders of Americans by illegal immigrants.
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Ultimately, little of what Trump proposed was new, and the speech hewed to the immigration blueprint that he published on his website in August 2015. It came after a week in which he seemed to shift his position on using a “deportation force” to remove approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country. On one point, however, Trump added more clarity, pledging to deport “all illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime whatsoever,” saying they would “be placed into immediate removal proceedings.”
The fiery speech dashed the hopes of moderate Republican operatives who wanted Trump to adopt gentler and more measured rhetoric. “There was never any pivot,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee spokesman who has been critical of Trump. “The media has been using that term for a year and it never happened. Even the Trump campaign stopped using it months ago.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign called it Trump’s “darkest speech yet.”
Meanwhile, Trump oriented his speech around his motto of “America first,” charging that Clinton and others are putting the needs of illegal immigrants before the needs of citizens.
“The media and my opponent discuss one thing, and only this one thing: the needs of people living here illegally. The truth is, the central issue is not the needs of the 11 million illegal immigrants – or however many there may be. That has never been the central issue. It will never be the central issue,” Trump said. “To all the politicians, donors and special interests, hear these words from me today: there is only one core issue in the immigration debate and it is this: the well-being of the American people. Nothing even comes a close second.”
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