Follow @lynnsweetWASHINGTON — In the run-up to Donald Trump’s immigration speech on Wednesday there was speculation that he might be softening his positions to broaden his appeal beyond his loyalist base.
There was no softening, contrary to what Trump himself suggested was possible a few days ago.
If anything, there was a hardening.
It’s difficult to see how Trump can use his now affirmed hard-line position on immigration to win the backing of suburban GOP moderates, independents or Hispanics. Politically, Trump was speaking to the folks who made him the GOP presidential nominee.
There was nothing in his speech to sell his policy to people who don’t share his worldview about illegal immigrants and the long-running problem about what to do with 11 million of them in the U.S.
In case you doubted it: Trump pledged there will be a “beautiful” wall on the U.S. southern border. And Mexico will pay for it.
Follow @lynnsweetOn “Day One” of a Trump presidency, millions of people in the U.S. illegally will be deported.
Trump made no major distinction between criminals — who are already a deportation priority of President Barack Obama — and folks who have stayed out of trouble. In Trump’s view, Obama and Hillary Clinton enable illegal immigrant criminals and sanctuary cities — such as Chicago — should be cut off from federal dollars.
Trump re-affirmed almost everything he has been saying in the past 14 months — toned down only in that he did not mention Muslims specifically.
Trump would even deport an illegal immigrant accused of a crime, and not wait for a trial. Trump would rescind executive orders Obama has issued that give a break to so-called “Dreamers,” youths in the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own.
Trump said, “For those here illegally today, who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only: to return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else” under the Trump rules.
Hillary for America National Latino Vote Director Lorella Praeli said in a statement, “In his darkest speech yet,” Trump “doubled down on his anti-immigrant rhetoric and attempted to divide communities by pitting people against each other and demonizing immigrants.”
Trump spoke a few hours after meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City, where he said he never discussed with Nieto about Mexico paying for the wall — which Nieto later disputed.
For a few minutes, in their joint press conference, Trump gave a glimpse of a statesmanlike side.
A few hours later in Phoenix, he shed that persona as he was back to being the tough guy.
Trump came under criticism even from some of his supporters when he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Aug. 24 that “everyone agrees that we get the bad ones out.”
Trump hinted that some who have been in the U.S. for years without any trouble could stay.
But that turned out to not be the case.
Before the Phoenix speech, in a surprise move, Trump flew to Mexico City for a meeting with Nieto, his first with a head of state since he became the GOP presidential nominee. Afterward, the two held a press conference, and a muted and restrained Trump refrained from insulting Mexicans.
The at-first-glance successful meeting dissolved into controversy over whether or not Trump discussed with Nieto his most famous applause line: That he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.
On that point, Trump said at the press conference, “We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date.”
Nieto did not raise any objection at the time.
A few hours later, Nieto said Trump was wrong.
Nieto said in a Tweet, “Al inicio de la conversación con Donald Trump dejé claro que México no pagará por el muro.”
In English, that’s “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
The quick trip was a gamble and not without risk.
Last year, Trump kicked off his campaign saying Mexicans sneaking into the U.S. were “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
On Wednesday in Mexico City, Trump in called Mexicans a “spectacular, hardworking people.” Back in Arizona, the way Trump told it, illegal immigrants are the cause of all crime in the U.S. At the end of his speech, he brought on stage family members of those killed by illegal immigrants. Our hearts go out to them.
Trump reaffirmed he would require that immigrants pass an ideological test. Immigrants should be chosen by “merit, skill and proficiency, doesn’t that sound nice?” he said.
By that standard, my grandparents may not have made it past Ellis Island.