Phoenix: Seeking to end confusion over his aggressive, but recently muddled language on immigration, Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to remove millions of people living in the country illegally if he becomes president, warning that failure to do so would jeopardise the "well-being of the American people".
But Trump didn't address what he would do about millions more who might remain under his approach — the major question that has frustrated past congressional attempts at remaking the nation's immigration laws.
Instead, Trump repeated the standard Republican talking point that only after securing the border can such a discussion begin to take place.
It was a retreat in the rhetoric for the billionaire from the GOP primaries, when he had vowed his "deportation force" would seek to remove all who didn't have permission to live and work in the country.
The Republican presidential candidate insisted than any of the estimated 11 million such immigrants who want to seek legal status or citizenship in the United States must return to their home countries in order to do so. And he outlined plans to create a special task force that would prioritise the deportation of criminals, people who have overstayed their visas and other immediate security threats.
"Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the United States by illegally entering our country," he said in a speech in Phoenix, as he laid out a tough, 10-point plan to crack down on illegal immigration.
"Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation," Trump charged in the highly-anticipated speech, which took place hours after he met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
His immigration plan will not offer a path to legal status or citizenship: "There will be no amnesty."
Those here illegally have "one route and one route only: To return home and apply for reentry like anybody else".
Trump summed up a nearly hour-long talk without effectively changing his overall position, the crux of his campaign for more than a year.
He said that the United States welcomes immigrants but that "they have to come into our country legally and properly vetted and in a manner that serves the national interest".
Trump claimed that 13,000 people in the US illegally, who were ordered back to their home counties, remained in the US between 2008 and 2012, and committed more crimes, including killings, sexual assaults and "some of the most heinous crimes imaginable."
Donald Trump also continued to insist that Mexico will pay for the wall he wants to build along the length of the southern border. Trump said that Mexico will pay for the wall, "100 percent. They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for" it.
The aggressive tone during his speech in Phoenix marked a shift from the New York billionaire's demeanor earlier in the day, when a much more measured Trump described Mexicans as "amazing people" as he appeared alongside Pena Nieto in Mexico's capital city. It was his first meeting with a head of state as his party's presidential nominee.
Shortly after the joint appearance, a dispute arose over the most contentious part of the billionaire's plans to secure the US southern border and fight illegal immigration — his insistence that Mexico must pay to build his promised wall.
Trump told reporters during the afternoon appearance that the two men didn't discuss who would pay for a cost of construction pegged in the billions. Silent at that moment, Pena Nieto later tweeted, "At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall."
With the meeting held behind closed doors, it was impossible to know who was telling the truth. But clash cast a cloud over Trump's first meeting with a foreign dignitary and threatened to overshadow the evening address.
With inputs from agencies
First Published On : Sep 1, 2016 08:57 IST