Tuesday 27 September 2016

Trump immigration speech enrages Mexican president

David Lawler in Washington

Published 02/09/2016 | 02:30

US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses the National Convention of the American Legion in Cincinnati, Ohio
US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses the National Convention of the American Legion in Cincinnati, Ohio

Mexico's president rebuked Donald Trump as a threat to his country just hours after painting a positive picture of talks the two held on Wednesday to try to defuse tensions over the US presidential hopeful's anti-Mexican campaign rhetoric.

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Enrique Pena Nieto issued the furious response to a major immigration speech from the Republican presidential nominee in Phoenix, Arizona, in which he depicted illegal immigrants as dangerous and insisted all "illegal aliens" would be subject to deportation.

"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 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."

The comments were in stark contrast to the show of diplomacy hours earlier in Mexico, where Mr Trump called Mr Pena Nieto his "friend".

Abandoning the diplomatic approach he had taken during the Mexico visit, the Republican nominee delivered a barnstorming address reminiscent of his raucous primary election rallies.

After Mr Pena Nieto 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."

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shake hands after a joint statement at Los Pinos, the presidential official residence, in Mexico City. Photo: AP
Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shake hands after a joint statement at Los Pinos, the presidential official residence, in Mexico City. Photo: AP

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, their loved ones would still be alive.

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.

Calling for stricter enforcement of existing immigration law and "zero tolerance for criminal aliens", Mr Trump promised to triple the number of immigration officers responsible for deportation.

"I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice," he said.

He 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."

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," Mr Trump said.

Mr Trump said his opponent's 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." (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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