(WSJ) Republican candidate says they didn’t talk about who would pay for proposed border wall; Mr. Peña Nieto said it won’t be Mexico.
He told a crowd of raucous supporters Wednesday evening that all illegal immigrants are “subject to deportation” and all those seeking legalization would have to go home and re-enter the country legally.
Mr. Trump also doubled-down on his assertion that Mexico will pay to build an “impenetrable” wall on the Southern border. “They don’t know it yet, and they’re going to pay for it,” he said at a rally here just hours after his meeting in Mexico City with President Enrique Peña Nieto, who told Mr. Trump that his nation had no intentions of underwriting such a project.
In amplifying the harsh tone of his immigration policy, Mr. Trump was placing a clear bet that, on this signature issue of his campaign, it is more important to err on the side of revving up his supporters than to soften his tone to reach out to unpersuaded voters.
“We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty,” Mr. Trump said. “Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the U.S. by illegally entering our country.”
The surprise visit to Mexico City on Wednesday and the Phoenix address came as Mr. Trump trails Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in polling in each of the 11 battleground states that will decide the general election.
His weakness among Hispanic voters has damaged his standing in Colorado, Nevada and Florida, and made Arizona competitive—a heavily Republican state where the Clinton campaign opened two offices in August and invested more than $100,000 in field staffers to register voters and boost Democratic turnout.
David Axelrod, the senior strategist for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, predicted Mr. Trump would reap some political benefit merely by standing next to a world leader. But Mrs. Clinton disagreed, saying on Twitter, “Trump just failed his first foreign test. Diplomacy isn’t as easy as it looks.”
For the last 10 days Mr. Trump has articulated varied proposals on how he would deal with the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the country. On Wednesday, he punted on that politically vexing issue.
Instead, Mr. Trump said he would jettison protections President Barack Obama has sought for parents of legal U.S. citizens and, on his first day in office, deport 2 million illegal immigrants he said have criminal records. He also said he would, without due process, remove any undocumented person who is arrested for any crime.
“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.
Deportations wouldn’t be limited to people suspected or convicted of crimes. “Anyone who enters the United States illegally is subject to deportation,” he said.
For new immigrants, Mr. Trump said he would install “new screening tests” that he said would “include an ideological certification.” He also said he would complete a “biometric entry-exit visa tracking system.”
Mr. Trump also reiterated immigration proposals he has touted on the campaign trail. He would rescind Mr. Obama’s executive actions to defer deportations for some illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and some illegal immigrant parents whose children are American citizens.
In addition to building the wall he said he would add 5,000 border patrol officers.
Earlier, Mr. Trump’s campaign had signaled a softening of his rhetoric on issues of trade and immigration, and a more subdued Mr. Trump appeared to do that during a joint appearance with Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.
On the issue of trade, the Republican presidential nominee did appear to give some room, telling reporters in Mexico City that he would aim to “improve” the North American Free Trade Agreement, an accord he has long called a disaster. In a joint briefing after the meeting, he also said he would aim to keep manufacturing “in our hemisphere,” referring to North America.
Yet, during his evening rally, Mr. Trump repeated his pledges to punish American companies that move to Mexico and enact steep new tariffs on imports.
Earlier in the day in Mexico City, Mr. Trump said at the briefing that “we didn’t discuss payment of the wall,” but called the barrier “a shared objective.”
Mr. Peña Nieto, however, said he told Mr. Trump in private that Mexico wouldn’t subsidize a border barrier. “At the beginning of my conversation with DonaldTrump I made clear that Mexico would not pay for the wall,” he wrote on Twitter later Wednesday.
Mr. Peña Nieto’s spokesman, Eduardo Sanchez, said Mr. Trump didn’t respond to the president’s statement, so there was no discussion. Trump spokesman Jason Miller released a statement that didn’t mention the wall payment dispute but said “it is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue.” Mr. Miller didn’t respond to requests for clarification.
Mr. Peña Nieto condemned several of Mr. Trump’s campaign proposals and his characterization of some illegal immigrants as drug dealers and rapists. “Mexicans felt offended by what was said” during the campaign, Mr. Peña Nieto said.
The Mexican president noted illegal immigration was at a 10-year low, and said economic activity in the two nations benefit each other. He called the Nafta trade pact a boon to the U.S. economy, but said he would be willing to “modernize” it.
Messrs. Trump and Peña Nieto described their meeting as polite but blunt. Mr. Trump said it was “a great honor” to be invited to Los Pinos, the official residence of the Mexican president, while Mr. Peña Nieto said Mr. Trump demonstrated his willingness to work with Mexico by visiting the country.
Mr. Trump, reading from notes, said he told Mr. Peña Nieto that Nafta has benefited Mexico far more than it has the U.S. Mr. Peña Nieto said his priority is “to protect Mexicans, wherever they are.”
The visit was harshly criticized in Mexico as capitulation to a U.S. candidate who had attacked the country repeatedly on the campaign trail. The meeting was unlikely to help Mr. Peña Nieto improve his approval ratings, which are the lowest of any Mexican leader in two decades, analysts said.
“Peña Nieto had a golden opportunity to speak truth to power and instead he showed weakness, handing the stage to Trump to reaffirm in our faces that yes, there will be a wall,” said Sergio Aguayo, an academic at the Colegio de Mexico graduate school in Mexico City.
Mr. Trump’s revised approach to Nafta differs from the trade policy he has articulated since launching his campaign. During a “60 Minutes” interview last September, he called Nafta “a disaster” that “shouldn’t exist.”
Though he said Wednesday that Nafta has benefited Mexico more than it has the U.S., he didn’t repeat calls to install tariffs of up to 40% on U.S. companies that relocate to Mexico.