PHOENIX: White House hopeful Donald Trump issued a stern anti-immigration warning on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) after visiting Mexico, saying people who cross into the United States illegally would never obtain legal status.
It was one in a series of stark declarations that framed a sweeping plan to crack down on illegal immigration following his more measured tone earlier in the day, when the Republican nominee huddled with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
“We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration,” Trump declared to a rowdy crowd in Phoenix.
Immigration is Trump’s signature issue as he battles Democrat Hillary Clinton ahead of the November 8 election, and he laid out a tough, 10-point plan to end illegal border crossings and abusive behavior by undocumented people in the country.
“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,” he said. “Those days are over.”
The fiery speech confirmed Trump’s hard line on immigration shortly after he insisted to Pena Nieto that a giant wall would be built on the US-Mexico border if he is elected.
The billionaire candidate’s plan includes deporting immigrants with criminal records, canceling President Barack Obama’s executive orders protecting millions of undocumented migrants, and blocking federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that bar discrimination against the undocumented.
Clinton has expressed support for a pathway to citizenship for most of America’s undocumented.
Her campaign called Trump’s performance part of his “campaign of hate.”
“In his darkest speech yet, Donald Trump doubled down on his anti-immigrant rhetoric and attempted to divide communities by pitting people against each other and demonizing immigrants,” it said in a statement.
Trump is said to have been mulling whether to soften his hardline policies, particularly his early call to deport some 11 million undocumented migrants living in the shadows.
He has vacillated between reaching out to minorities and returning to the anti-immigration rhetoric admired by his most ardent supporters, mainly white working-class males.
His tense international trip on Wednesday saw Trump navigating a political tightrope just 69 days before the election.
While he insisted — as he regularly does on the campaign trail — that Mexico will pay for the wall, he said that he and Pena Nieto did not discuss who would fund the construction.
But Pena Nieto contradicted Trump, tweeting that he told the Republican nominee in their meeting that Mexico would not pay for such a wall.
“At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall,” Pena Nieto wrote after Trump departed Mexico City for Phoenix.
Later in Phoenix, Trump painted many illegal immigrants as murderers, which served as red meat to his mainly white supporter base.
“We will issue detainers for illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime whatsoever and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings,” he said.
Political analyst Bakari Sellers, who supports Clinton, branded the speech “nationalism on steroids.”
Trump demanded an end to “catch-and-release” programs along the country’s southern border, while calling for stricter enforcement of existing immigration law and “zero tolerance for criminal aliens.”
He also promised to triple the number of immigration officers responsible for deportation by creating a new “special deportation task force.”
But he remained unclear about exactly what would become of the 11 million people currently living in the shadows.
“For those here illegally today who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only: to return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above,” Trump said.