The speech, which was met with loud applause, was a ringing, patriotic affirmation of conservative values, particularly the rule of law which has become all but a dead letter in the Obama era. Instead of backpedaling and watering down his stance on the illegal immigration crisis as pundits had expected, he refined it and put flesh on proposals that had until now been overly abstract. (A full transcript is available here.)
Trump made the case that immigration has to be rational and make America better, not worse, a radical idea in today’s political and cultural climate.
The “fundamental problem” with the immigration status quo “is that it serves the needs of wealthy donors, political activists and powerful, powerful politicians.” The current system “does not serve you, the American people.”
When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, lower wages. Immigration reform should mean something else entirely. It should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.
It is important “to listen to the concerns that working people, our forgotten working people, have over the record pace of immigration and its impact on their jobs, wages, housing, schools, tax bills and general living conditions.” Illegal immigration costs taxpayers upwards of $113 billion a year and “most illegal immigrants are lower skilled workers with less education, who compete directly against vulnerable American workers, and that these illegal workers draw much more out from the system than they can ever possibly pay back.”
In many cases, illegal aliens are “treated better than our vets,” he said.
Trump vowed to right the ship of state by reversing President Obama’s executive actions, building a wall on the country’s southern border complete with towers, installing above- and below-ground sensors to detect tunnels, and enhancing aerial surveillance. He promised to beef up manpower for border protection, create what he called “a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants,” triple the number of ICE deportation officers, end “catch and release” programs, and hit so-called sanctuary cities that shelter illegal aliens in the pocketbook by denying them federal funds until they stop breaking immigration laws.
“Our enforcement priorities will include removing criminals, gang members, security threats, visa overstays, public charges,” he said. Public charges, he explained, are “those relying on public welfare or straining the safety net along with millions of recent illegal arrivals and overstays who've come here under this current corrupt administration.”
Trump said illegals and other non-citizens incarcerated in the U.S. had about 25,000 homicide arrests to their names, according to a 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office.
Trump said the immigration process has to include “an ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people.”
Applicants will be asked their views about honor killings, about respect for women and gays and minorities. Attitudes on radical Islam, which our president refuses to say and many other topics as part of this vetting procedure. And if we have the right people doing it, believe me, very, very few will slip through the cracks. Hopefully, none.
Not everyone who wants to move to the U.S. should be allowed in, Trump said. Some applicants won’t be able to be assimilated and “it's our right, as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us.”
Visa issuance should be suspended in any place where adequate national security screening cannot occur, he said. From 9/11 to the end of 2014 “at least 380 foreign born individuals were convicted in terror cases inside the United States,” Trump said. “And even right now the largest number of people are under investigation for exactly this that we've ever had in the history of our country.”
Having a porous border gets Americans killed, he said as he invited “angel moms” who have lost children to crimes committed by illegal aliens onto the stage. “Countless Americans who have died in recent years would be alive today if not for the open border policies of this administration and the administration that causes this horrible, horrible thought process, called Hillary Clinton.”
“Since 2013 alone, the Obama administration has allowed 300,000 criminal aliens to return back into United States communities,” Trump said. “These are individuals encountered or identified by ICE, but who were not detained or processed for deportation because it wouldn't have been politically correct.”
Trump promised to “restore the highly successful Secure Communities Program … [and] expand and revitalize the popular 287(g) partnerships, which will help to identify hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens in local jails that we don't even know about.”
Both programs were “recklessly gutted” by Obama.
From the outset of the speech the New York Times set out to undermine Trump in its running online commentary, referring to the audience as a “largely white Arizona crowd.”
But overall the address was well received – at least on Fox News Channel.
Speaking on Fox, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Immigration Studies, indicated he was pleasantly surprised.
“My concern over the past couple of weeks was that he was maybe backsliding, he hadn’t really decided what his immigration policy was,” Krikorian said. But the speech presented “a pretty coherent, detailed immigration platform that holds together.”
The speech came hours after Trump visited with President Enrique Peña of Mexico in the Mexican capital city. That meeting and the attendant media coverage of it went a long way towards making Trump look presidential on the world stage.
“Prosperity and happiness in both our countries will increase if we work together on the following five shared goals,” Trump said in a joint appearance with Peña after the meeting.
The first of those five goals is "ending illegal immigration," not just between the U.S. and Mexico “but including the illegal immigration and migration from Central and South Americans, and from other regions that impact security and finances in both Mexico and the United States."
He said “having a secure border is a sovereign right and mutually beneficial," and that both countries have the right “to build a physical barrier or wall on any of its borders to stop the illegal movement of people, drugs and weapons.”
The third goal is “dismantling drug cartels and ending the movement of illegal drugs, weapons, and funds across our border."
The fourth is "improving NAFTA," the trade pact between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. It “must be updated to reflect the realities of today. “
The fifth is “keep manufacturing wealth in our hemisphere," Trump said. "When jobs leave Mexico, the U.S., or Central America, and go overseas, it increases poverty and pressure on social services, as well as pressures on cross-border migration. Tremendous pressure."
Anti-Trump pseudo-journalist and open-borders shill Jorge Ramos of Univision went absolutamente loco after the speech. Ramos was upset that Trump failed to apologize to Mexicans for speaking his mind. President Peña “was not ready for Trump,” he tweeted. “Couldn’t get an apology or any change on immigration and Trump still wants Mexico to pay for the wall[.]”
In an interview with Time yesterday, former Mexican president Vicente Fox lashed out at Trump comparing him to a “street fighter.” Presumably President Fox is unaware that given the public mood in the U.S., most people would cheer that description of Trump.
The trip to Mexico and the speech in Arizona come as the much ballyhooed extended post-convention bounce Democrat Hillary Clinton enjoyed has evaporated as Trump continues to narrow the gap. The latest Fox News poll of registered voters shows Clinton edging out Trump by 41 to 39 percent, with Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party at 9 percent and Jill Stein of the Green Party at 4 percent.
The Real Clear Politics moving average of polls shows Clinton at 42.3 percent, 4.1 percentage points ahead of Trump who has 38.2 percent. Trailing are Johnson at 7.7 percent and Stein at 3.0 percent. Just two weeks ago Clinton was besting Trump by 6.3 points in a four-way race. In an ominous development for Clinton, her unfavorable rating with registered voters is now virtually identical with Trump. Trump’s rating is 60 percent; Clinton’s is 59 percent.
Trump’s very successful Wednesday is bound to drive his poll numbers higher.