As well as appealing to minority voters, the Republican candidate seems eager to wash off his “racist” label.
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has addressed supporters in a major speech on immigration in the border state of Arizona, just hours after he met Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City.
He opened his speech on Wednesday evening by detailing stories of undocumented immigrants who committed violent crimes, telling thousands in the convention centre in downtown Phoenix that he had “met with many of the great parents who lost their children to sanctuary cities and open borders”.
Later, he pledged to impose “ideological certification” for immigrants seeking to enter the US, to include questions about so-called honour killings, women, gays and “radical Islam”. He said immigration would be suspended from countries such as Syria and Libya.
“We have no idea where they’re coming from, we have no idea who they are,” he said of Syrian refugees.
He raged against what he called low-skilled undocumented immigrants who he said competed with US citizens for jobs and pledged to “remove criminal aliens immediately”.
Donald Trump may not be setting up a deportation force for all undocumented migrants but he's not softening on immigration #TrumpAZ
— Alan Fisher (@AlanFisher) September 1, 2016
Trump also reaffirmed his pledge to build a wall on the country’s southern border with Mexico, as supporters chanted, “Build a wall”.
“They don’t know it yet, but they will pay for the wall,” he said of Mexico.
In the audience, Denise Williams, 66, from New Mexico, agreed on the need for a closed border.
“I’m hoping to hear our borders will close but people that are here are treated fairly,” she told Al Jazeera.
“People who have been here a long time and have not committed any felonies, there’s nothing wrong with them.”
Earlier on Wednesday, protesters gathered in Mexico City as the presidential hopeful visited the country which he has derided as a source of rapists and criminals coming to the US.
Immigration has been a defining issue of Trump’s presidential campaign, with inflammatory comments about Latinos, Muslims and other minorities.
For all the talk of “pivots” and “softening”, Donald Trump is back where he started on the question of immigration. It’s hardly surprising.
It’s been a cornerstone of his presidential bid and was a significant factor of his win in the primary campaign. It’s estimated there are 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States.
Donald Trump believes two million have a criminal past. These people, he insists, will be removed from the US on his first day in office.
And the others? Well, there’s no chance of them gaining citizenship, or any sort of legal status. There will be no amnesty in any form.
But it’s not just illegal immigration that will be a target for the Trump White House. Anyone who wants to move to the US will have to bring a benefit to the country. And they will have to pass an ideological test. They will be questioned on American values and their attitude to Americans in general. They will be asked about their views on issues such as so-called honour killings or radical Islam. And only after this “extreme vetting” will they be put on the path to being allowed into the country.
Trump believes the immigration issue is a vote winner. Watch him concentrate on this issue for the 60+ days left in the presidential campaign.