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Trump shuts down talk of softening on immigration

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Donald Trump laid out a 10-point, hard-line immigration plan in Phoenix Wednesday night that quashed any expectations he would pivot from his position or soften his tone. 

Hours after giving subdued comments in Mexico City at a joint press appearance with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the Republican presidential nominee vowed to build his promised wall on the southern border and warned that no one in the country illegally would be exempt from deportation.  

{mosads}”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 hourlong 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.

“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. 

The speech effectively shut down those anticipating Trump would lean toward the center as the general election race heats up. And it’s an embrace of the controversial style of campaign that won him the hearts of the GOP base but has since driven Trump’s unfavorable ratings with a general electorate into the ground. 

The 10-point plan emphasized conservative immigration tenets 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 inconsistent 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. Trump’s poor standing in the polls only heightened the scrutiny of his position.

The GOP nominee has led in just one national poll since late July — Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has led in 34 of the last 36 polls according to RealClearPolitics. 

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 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.

“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. 

“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.” 

Speaking to the white, working-class voters who make up the heartbeat of his base, Trump framed immigration — both legal and illegal — as a significant risk for those already in the U.S. 
“Anyone who tells you the core issue is the needs of those living here illegally has simply spent too much time in Washington,” he said. “There is only one core issue in the immigration debate, and that issue is the well-being of the American people.”
And he noted that “record-high” legal immigration is jeopardizing the economic well-being of American workers, calling for a new “immigration commission” to put “America first.” 
“We have to listen to the concerns that working people have over the record pace of immigration and its impact on their jobs, wages, housing, schools, tax bills and living conditions. These are valid concerns,” he said. 

Trump 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 of Maricopa County, Ariz., and mothers whose children were killed by illegal 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.

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.”

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jeff Sessions Mike Pence

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