PHOENIX – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump returned from a controversial visit to Mexico’s “wonderful wonderful” President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday evening in time to unveil his hardline immigration policy to an enthusiastic crowd gathered in the Phoenix Convention Center.
Arizona is friendly to Trump. Pollsters for the website fivethirtyeight.com forecast that Trump has a nearly 76 percent chance of defeating Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Arizona. Nationally, the same pollsters predict Clinton has a 70 percent chance of defeating Trump.
Amid chants of “USA! USA!” and “Build that wall!” Trump said the United States is a “big bully that keeps getting beat up” and vowed “There will be no amnesty” for any undocumented immigrant in the country today.
His 10-point immigration plan includes rescinding President Obama’s executive action to give certain undocumented young people, called DREAMers, a temporary reprieve from deportation, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. He vowed to initiate “extreme vetting” and require “ideological certification” screening to make sure incoming immigrants share American values and love the American people.
Other parts of the plan block funding for sanctuary cities, restore controversial enforcement programs known as Secure Communities and 287g, install a biometric visa tracking system, ensure no households with undocumented immigrants received government benefits, and detain undocumented immigrants until they are sent back to their home countries and re-negotiate trade deals.
Next, Trump beckoned to the stage several people who each said a family member had been killed by an undocumented immigrant.
The liberal Think Progress website linked one Trump statistic in the speech to the Federation of American Immigration Reform, which was labeled an anti-immigrant extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit that tracks hate groups.
Before Trump spoke, vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio warmed up the crowd. Pence said Trump had an “unshakable faith” in American people while Giuliani hammered Clinton, calling her out on untrustworthiness and her email problems, while the crowd chanted “Lock her up!”
Ducey, who had once appeared reluctant to support Trump, hyped up the crowd by emphasizing the need for a Republican president ready to nominate Supreme Court justices and shake up Washington. He stressed unity on the Republican ticket.
Arpaio, who has been found guilty of contempt of court in a federal racial profiling case involving Latinos – and was referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution – said the southern border was not secure because drugs and immigrants are flooding across the border.
Before the speech, Joseph Garcia, director of the Latino Public Policy Center at the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy in Phoenix, said people on both sides of the political spectrum have not yet gotten a solid plan from Trump about his immigration policy. “If we can sift through the rhetoric and find details of the policy in (the speech) there,” he said. “I think that’s what everyone is waiting to hear.”
Laura Hunt, 68, who said she lives in Red Rock, said she originally was not a Trump supporter, but after listening to Trump speak Wednesday she decided to vote for him.
“I think he’s going to be fair, I think he’s going to be humane, I think he’s going to be firm,” Hunt said. “And I think will help us take back our country.”
After the speech, she said one thing she noticed about Trump is that “those that support him are very enthusiastic.”
“They believe in this man, they believe in what he stands for,” Hunt said. “And so I think Hillary Clinton is going to have a real challenge on her hands.”
Kyle Roundy, a 59-year-old Globe resident, compared the Trump speech to a “rock concert.”
“He’s a lot of fun,” Roundey said. “He says what everyone is thinking but is afraid to say.”
Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, who have clashed publicly with Trump, did not react to Trump’s immigration plan on their Twitter or Facebook pages. But Flake posted a picture on Twitter of a sunset and noted “Can’t beat Arizona sunsets.”