PHOENIX — Donald Trump on Wednesday atomized any notion he is softening his hard-line immigration positions, rejecting a move to the middle that might make his presidential candidacy more appealing to Latino and moderate white voters and instead reinforcing his uncompromising image on border security and deportation policy.
Trump presented a day-vs.-night contrast between his high-octane opposition to illegal immigration and the views of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who has expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for many unauthorized immigrants already living here.
Speaking for 70 minutes in Phoenix, Trump, the Republican nominee, outlined a 10-point plan that included his signature issues such as a border wall built at Mexico's expense; blocking funding to so-called "sanctuary cities"; ending "catch-and-release" policies; and "zero tolerance for criminal aliens."
Trump also dashed expectations he might make a concession to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who have settled in the United States, held down jobs and raised families. He rejected any notion of "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, unequivocally denouncing the idea that anyone can attain U.S. citizenship by entering the country without authorization.
He emphasized that all such immigrants are subject to deportation, even though his administration would concentrate on those who are criminals.
"Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone," Trump said of the criminal immigrants. "And you can call it deported if you want. The press doesn't like that term. You can call it whatever the hell you want. They're gone."
Trump said, if implemented, his plan would curb illegal immigration and decrease crime, border crossings and welfare recipients, resulting in a "peace dividend" that could be spent on "rebuilding America" and its inner cities.
"These 10 steps, if rigorously followed and enforced, will accomplish more in a matter of months than our politicians have accomplished on this issue in the last 50 years," Trump told a noisy and enthusiastic crowd inside the Phoenix Convention Center.
"Because I am not a politician, because I am not beholden to any special interest, I will get this done for you and your family," he said. "We will accomplish all of the steps outlined above, and when we do, peace and law and justice and prosperity will prevail."
Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science and Chicano/Latino studies at the University of California-Irvine, was surprised at how strident Trump’s immigration speech sounded.
He expected Trump to give a speech that continued to appeal to conservative voters but also reached out to moderate and Latino voters. Instead, Trump doubled-down on tough rhetoric and even went a step further by calling for reductions in legal immigration, something he hadn’t done before.
“I was expecting at least some tentative effort to present a moderate tone at least on some issues — he wasn’t going to reverse himself with the wall — as a way of seeming presidential and reaching out to the moderate suburban voters that he seems to be alienating," DeSipio said. "What I heard was sort of doubling-down on fear-mongering and identifying a very enforcement-oriented sort of policies that go back to his primary conversations but skip over what he has been seemingly saying over the last couple of weeks.”
DeSipio said he believes the speech will help energize Trump's base but will hurt him with moderate and Latino voters he will need to win the general election.
“It doesn’t win over the votes of moderates that have been fleeing the Republican ticket this time and will, in fact, inflame some Democrats, particularly Latinos and other immigrants who were already angry and this will make them even angrier," he said.
Angela Kelley, executive director of the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund, said in a written statement that Trump has no substantive immigration plan except for his enforcement-only position.
“His rhetoric for the past 15 months has remained unchanged and his policy proposals remain stuck in a deportation-only mode," Kelley said. "His 10-point plan reads like a restrictionist wish list. From promises to build a wall and deport Dreamers to keeping refugees out, he is sealing his fate with large segments of the electorate."
SUPPORTERS PRAISE SPEECH
But Trump’s speech drew praise from advocates of less immigration or more enforcement.
“We felt he hit all the important points," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “It began from the premise that true immigration reform has to start from the premise that it’s the American people’s policy and that the laws and polices need to protect their interests.”
He said for the first time Trump laid out a clearly defined immigration policy.
“It’s now up to those who oppose it to explain why we shouldn’t secure the border, why we shouldn’t prevent illegal aliens from working in this country, why we shouldn’t eliminate sanctuary cities,” Mehlman said.
Mehlman did say he was put off by the emphasis on people who had been killed by immigrants in the country illegally.
At the end of his speech, Trump brought on stage several "Angel Mothers" who took turns describing how their child had been killed and endorsing Trump.
"All of those were unnecessary, but I don't think he applied any blanket characterization of all illegal immigrants as criminals. He said very specifically that we have to treat everybody with respect and dignity and we certainly endorse that," he said.
Trump's immigration remarks in Arizona came hours after he stood side-by-side in Mexico City with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and reflected a dramatic contrast in tone. While Trump appeared soft-spoken and statesmanlike with Peña Nieto, his Phoenix address was marked by intensity.
Trump's Mexico City visit prompted a disagreement over Trump's signature issue, the wall. Trump said the wall came up, but they didn't discuss who would pay for it. Peña Nieto later indicated that he told Trump that Mexico wouldn't pay for it.
The wall has been a point of contention with Mexican officials since Trump floated the idea last year.
In Phoenix, Trump identified the wall as the No. 1 point of his 10-point plan.
"We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall," Trump said. "One hundred percent. They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for it. And they're great people and great leaders, but they're going to pay for the wall."
The rest of Trump's event also seemed programmed to highlight his anti-illegal-immigration credentials. His warm-up speakers included fellow border hard-liners such as U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
"Quite frankly, I don't really care who pays for it," Arpaio said of the tiff over the border wall's financing. "Just get it built."
Trump's immigration speech went over big with his the audience.
Maria Kardos, 51, of Vail, said Trump's plan made her feel safe. Her top concern this election is national security, and she believes his plan will keep terrorists from entering through the southern border.
"There was not a softening of his stance," she said. "He's sticking to his points ... and he's going to keep families safe."
Lina Bellenir, 68, a "legal immigrant" from Italy who lives in Fountain Hills, said she was thrilled with Trump's remarks.
"He covered every point," she said. "He covered the visa program. He covered the criminals that are in this country and creating havoc in our country. There wasn't a detail that he missed in my opinion. And he said it with compassion and heartfelt love for all Americans."
Contributing: Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Arizona Republic
The Arizona Republic