(ABC News) — Donald Trump gave his long-awaited immigration speech in Phoenix tonight after touching down in the U.S. following a surprise visit to Mexico.
As he spoke about the “beautiful” wall that he wants to build along the southern U.S. border, Trump reiterated his earlier claim that Mexico will pay for the wall.
The wall was a flash-point this afternoon since Trump said in his Mexico City press conference today that he and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto “didn’t discuss” the payment plan. Later, the Mexican president tweeted that he made it clear during their closed-door meeting that Mexico will not be paying for the wall.
Yet in tonight’s speech, Trump was confident that he would come around.
“Mexico will pay for the wall. Believe me. A hundred percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for the wall,” Trump said.
He referenced the trip to Mexico at the start of his speech, saying that he had just “returned from a very important and special meeting” with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, who Trump said “truly loves his country, Mexico.”
“It was a thoughtful and substantive conversation and it will go on for a while, and in the end, we’re all going to win. Both countries — we’re all going to win,” Trump said.
Trump launched into his immigration policy discussion by saying that the focus should be on improving the lives of Americans and their security.
“When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, lower wages, immigration reform. [It] should mean something else entirely. It should mean improvements to our laws and policies, to make life better for American citizens. But if we’re going to make our immigration system work, then we have to be prepared to talk honestly and without fear about these important and very sensitive issues,” Trump said.
Trump has been talking about his campaign’s immigration policy for more than a week and had been touting the speech in Phoenix for days before announcing the trip to Mexico late Tuesday night.
Trump listed a number of cases where Americans had been attacked or killed by “illegal immigrants,” which Trump used as an arguments against open borders.
“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. It is called Hillary Clinton,” he said.
“We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. Sometimes it is not going to work out. It is our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us,” Trump said.
Trump talked about the controversial deportation force that he plans to create, saying that the first priority would be removing criminals. In explaining the targets, he took a shot at Clinton.
“Within [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice, just like Hillary Clinton has evaded justice, okay? Maybe they’ll be able to deport her,” he said.
He criticized Clinton’s proposed policy regarding immigrants to the U.S., saying that she cares more about the “needs of people living here illegally” than American citizens.
“In many cases, by the way, they’re treated better than our vets,” Trump said.
Trump addressed several other immigration-related policies that he has previously mentioned during the campaign, including “extreme” vetting practices and a list of countries whose citizens are banned from receiving U.S. visas.
In some areas, he gave more details about policies he has teased on the trail. For instance, he has previously talked about his plan for ideological tests for immigration applicants, but tonight he listed off some of the issues they will be asked about.
“Applicants will be asked for their views about honor killings, about respect for women and gays and minorities, attitudes on radical Islam,” Trump said tonight.
The most emotional moment of the event came when Trump called up a group he dubbed his “Angel Moms,” made up of parents of Americans who were killed by “illegal immigrants.” They each addressed the crowd and said when and how their child or spouse was killed. Clinton has also featured parents in her campaign, including a group called “The Mothers of the Movement” which includes mothers of children who were killed by gun violence or law enforcement.
At points throughout the speech, Trump returned to an oft-repeated campaign theme, casting himself as a political outsider.
“Anyone who tells you that the core issue is the needs of those living here illegally has simply spent too much time in Washington,” Trump said.