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'No amnesty' - Trump doubles down in Phx immigration speech

'We've got to have a country, folks'

Donald Trump shut the door Wednesday on the possibility that he was softening his rhetoric on immigration, laying out a plan built on detention and deportation, while new limits on legal immigration would include an "extreme vetting process" with "ideological certifications."

"The truth is, our immigration system is worse than anyone realizes," Trump said, speaking to about 4,000 people at a rally in downtown Phoenix.

Trump said that the immigration system does not serve the American people, serving "special interests" instead. The Republican presidential nominee criticized past attempts to reform immigration, calling them amnesty and open borders policies.

"Immigration reform should mean something else entirely: it should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens," Trump said.

Trump spoke at the Phoenix Convention Center on Wednesday evening just after returning from a visit with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, during which Trump said they had substantive discussions about the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

Trump said that he and Peña Nieto "did discuss the wall, we didn't discuss payment of the wall. That will be for a later date."

But hours later the Mexican president refuted Trump's claim, tweeting that "at the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall."

Over the past week, Trump had appeared to be willing to build an immigration system that would work with people already in the country illegally but in Wednesday's speech he hammered out a series of proposals that would restrict immigration, create new ideological tests for incoming immigrants, punish so-called Sanctuary Cities and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In the last week, Trump has vacillated between tough rhetoric that included calling Mexican immigrants "drug dealers," "criminals," and "rapists" and saying that he wanted an immigration policy that would treat people humanely because "we're not looking to hurt people."

Trump began by saying "tonight is not going to be a normal rally speech. Instead, I am going to deliver a detailed policy address on one of the greatest challenges facing our country today: immigration."

Trump then delineated his 10 point plan for immigration the focus of which was the detention and deportation of people in the country without authorization, including aliens who have committed a crime in the United States.

'Great wall'

Trump then detailed plans for a "great wall" that will be paid for by Mexico "100 percent. They just don't know it yet," Trump said. The comment brought cheers from the crowd.

Trump went further and said that the United States would build an "impenetrable ... powerful ... solid southern border wall."

Trump's wall would be defended by sensors "above and below ... towers, aerial surveillance and manpower to supplement the wall."

The Republican also said that he would end "catch and release" and have a "zero-tolerance policy" for people he called criminal aliens. This would include detaining any immigrant who commits a crime, the restoration of Secure Communities and the expansion of the 287g program which urges local police agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.

Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities would not receive federal funds, Trump said.. This could affect cities like Phoenix and Tucson which have both been reported as "sanctuary cities."

Trump also said that he would repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order that allows immigrants who arrived illegally as children to stay in the country and obtain driver's licenses and jobs if they qualify. In November 2014, President Barack Obama announced that he would expand DACA and introduce a new program, DAPA, for parents of children who have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. That program has been held up by a lawsuit from 26 states including Texas and Arizona.

Trump said that he would repeal all "unconstitutional executive orders," which includes deferred action for children and their parents.

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"In a Trump administration, all immigration laws will be enforced," Trump said. "As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities. But, unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement."

Among those priorities that Trump laid out would be removing "criminals, gang members, security threats, and visa overstays."

While most of Trump's speech seemed to focus on immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border, he also spoke about limiting immigration from countries that he believes are connected to terrorism, including Syria and Libya.

He said a ssoon as he entered office he would direct the Department of State, Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to begin a “comprehensive review” of at least 380 foreign-born individuals who were convicted in terrorism cases in the United States since 9/11.

"That number's likely higher but the administration refuses to provide that information to Congress," he said.

He also criticized Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her plan to bring refugees from Syria. Instead, he said that he would create "safe zones" for people to stay in their countries of origin rather than come to the United States, a program that he said would be cheaper than bringing them here.

New restrictions on legal immigration

While Trump has talked before about "extreme vetting," during his speech Wednesday he went further and said that the screening tests for new immigrants would include "an ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people."

Trump said that applicants would be asked for their views on a number of issues including honor killings, tolerance for "women and gays and minorities" and what they think about "radical Islam" which would all be part of the vetting procedure.

"I call it extreme vetting and if people don't like it — well, we've got to have a country, folks," Trump said. 

Trump said that he would create a system to track expired visas, he would enhance E-verify employment measures and eliminate access to public benefits for people in the country without authorization, including wellcare and education.

Trump's plans would include the finalization of a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system.

""Immigration law doesn’t exist just for the purpose of keeping out criminals. It exists to protect all aspects of American life – the worksite, the welfare office, the education system and much else," he said.

"If we only enforce the laws against crime, then we have an open border to the entire world," he said.

Trump said that he would reform legal immigration to "serve the best interests of America and its workers."

This would include keeping immigration levels "within historical norms" and "select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society, and their ability to be financially self-sufficient."

"We want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally and properly-vetted, and in a manner that serves the national interest."

As part of his speech Trump brought out family members of people were killed in incidents involving illegal immigrants and now participate in the Remembrance Project, people such as Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son Sgt. Brandon Mendoza was killed by a drunk driver illegally in the United States, and Jamil Shaw, whose son was killed by a Mexican-born gang member in 2008.

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Trump said these families are ignored by Clinton.

"She's not talking about the American families who have been permanently separated from their loved ones because of a preventable death," Trump said. "No, she’s only talking about families who came here in violation of the law."

Trump pledged to remove "criminal aliens" from the country "on day one" and laid responsibility for these deaths at the feet of the current administration and his political opponent.

"President Obama and Hillary Clinton have engaged in gross dereliction of duty by surrendering the safety of the American people to open borders," Trump said. "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."

Trump also said that he would suspend the issuing of visas to any country that "refuse to take their people back after they have been ordered to leave the United States."

Trump's speech was celebrated by immigration hardliners, including David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan.

"Excellent speech by Donald Trump tonight," Duke tweeted. "Deport criminal aliens, end catch and release, enforce immigration laws & America First."

Reporters' credentials revoked

Just before Trump's speech, five reporters from the Arizona Daily Wildcat, a student-run newspaper that covers the University of Arizona, had their event credentials abruptly revoked.

Wildcat editor Sam Gross said that Trump campaign press lead Kathryn Wellner blocked him from entering the media bullpen and demanded that the reporters return their press passes which had been issued upstairs minutes earlier.

Wellner provided no explanation for denying the reporters entry.

When Gross told her they had been listed as cleared to be credentialed, he said she responded, "You're not on my list."

However, she later told Wildcat reporter Rebecca Noble and other reporters observing the conversation that she did not have the authority to decide who could be admitted to the press area.

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Gross and Noble continued to report from inside the Phoenix Convention Center.

The Trump campaign has repeatedly denied credentials to news outlets it deems disproportionately critical of their campaign, including The Washington Post, BuzzFeed and local outlets.

While most efforts towards comprehensive immigration reform have mixed border enforcement with a system to bring people in from the shadows, Trump's plan was focused almost exclusively on detention and deportation.

However, he did say that after "several years, when we have accomplished all of our enforcement goals" he would "consider the appropriate disposition of those who remain."

"For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above," Trump said. "Those who have left to seek entry under this new system will not be awarded surplus visas, but will have to enter under the immigration caps or limits that will be established."

John Lamont, 52, of Tempe said that he hadn't decided who he would vote for yet but he liked Trump's speech.

"He took a lot of the edge off of the toxicity of his earlier speeches," Lamont said. "But I think he was adamant about the things we need to do."

Lamont also said that he had trouble with the idea of voting for Clinton because of her handling of secret documents and that he appreciated that Trump talked about enforcing current law. Clinton proves that there are "two classes, the lawless and those who have to be lawful — that's us."

Steven Hayhurst, 58, also from Tempe, said that the speech was good and that it was unfair that Trump had been labeled a racist.

"The idea that this is racist or bigoted is just weak and lame," Hayhurst said.

Lisa Neuvenheim, 37, from Scottsdale said she liked the speech because Trump addressed "ending the cycle of amnesty."

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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1 comment on this story

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1762 comments
Sep 1, 2016, 9:12 am
-0 +0

I largely agree with Trump’s views on immigration. However I have to disagree with him on one thing: the wall.

First off, Mexico shouldn’t have to pay for it. It is not their responsibility to keep their people in, it is our responsibility to protect our own border. It is inherently wrong that US Citizens have to have their Fourth Amendment rights grossly violated every time they want to board an airplane, but those who aren’t citizens can just walk right over our border pretty as they please. It is long past time for this gross inconsistency to end.

I hate the idea that a wall is even necessary. But, it has become abundantly clear that there are literally millions who disrespect our country and her laws and her sovereignty so we may not have a choice. Were I president, I would first try putting military troops and resources on the border before building a wall.

I also loved that Trump mentioned renegotiating NAFTA. This country made a terrible mistake not electing Ross Perot in ‘92. I still have a copy of this book Not For Sale at Any Price. Each and every thing he warned us would happen were NAFTA to pass…happened. We really should have listened to him. Well, I did, but I mean more of us should have. I would love to see NAFTA go away, or at least fixed so our jobs stop going to Mexico.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Phoenix Convention Center on Wednesday to unveil his 10-point immigration plan.