Donald Trump has won over Republican voters with a pair of speeches to the party faithful, attacking the government of Mexico and outlining a plan to charge them $100,000 for every illegal immigrant who crosses the southern border.
The Republican presidential front-runner got round after round of applause at successive events in Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona, at which he rounded on the Mexican government for allegedly ‘pushing’ undocumented immigrants to the U.S. to avoid dealing with them themselves.
Trump said that Mexico had been allowed to get away with the scheme because they are ‘smart’ and President Obama and his administration are ‘stupid’ – a situation which can only be fixed if he leads the charge to ‘take back our country’.
At the second address in Phoenix, Trump unveiled his plan, under which he would hold the government responsible for those who crossed the border, and charge them a fee for each person.
He said: ‘Every time Mexico – really intelligently – sends people over we charge Mexico $100,000 for every person they send over.
‘Now they make so much money that that’s peanuts. I could’ve made it much higher – but I’m nice. I’m in a good mood today’.
If Trump could enact the scheme, his proposed bill could spiral into the billions. According to the Pew Research Center, there are some 5.9million undocumented Mexicans in the country already, though it is difficult to judge the rate at which they are coming and going.
Although he had harsh words for undocumented entrants into the United States, Trump defended the rights of legal immigrants – and pointed out that he is married to one of them.
He even suggested liberalizing the system to get more ‘great people’ to the U.S.
He said: ‘I love legal immigration. I love it, i think it’s great. My wife is a legal immigrant!
‘She went through a whole long process, it’s not easy. We should maybe make it easier and faster – which I think is fine – and we’ll have great people come in.’
Trump is currently married to Melania Trump, a former model from Slovenia in Eastern Europe. She is his third wife.
Speaking earlier in Las Vegas, he also revealed that he would scrap sanctions against Russia were he to become President – and said that he would ‘get along nicely’ with the country’s president Vladimir Putin.
That first speech was an important test for Trump as it was at FreedomFest, which bills itself as the largest libertarian conference in America with many delegates from the Tea Party wing.
For over an hour, he charmed the crowd with jokes about his hair and cast himself as a tough negotiator in contrast to the ‘dumb’ leaders from the Democratic party.
The crowd cheered when he invited Jamiel Shaw onto the stage, a father from Los Angeles whose 17-year-old son was shot dead by an illegal immigrant. Shaw also went to Phoenix with Trump and spoke alongside him there.
In an emotional speech Shaw said that Trump ‘loves America’ and was ‘willing to sacrifice his life’ for his country and urged them to trust him.
He said: ‘He loves America. Why else would he be doing this?’
Trump needs to start building grassroots support if he is maintain his first-place position in the polls among Republicans for the 2016 Presidential race.
His blunt talk on immigration has propelled him to 15 per cent of the vote, past Jeb Bush who is at 11 per cent, according to the Economist.
But Trump brushed off his rival saying: ‘I don’t see him as a factor’.
So FreedomFest at the Planet Hollywood Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, a five day conference attended by 2,000 people, was a crucial test.
Trump threw red meat to the audience and won rounds of applause when he said that the Tea Party had been ‘disparaged for years’.
They clapped when he said that Obamacare, the President’s signature healthcare law, was a ‘disaster’ and that veterans were treated like ‘third class citizens’.
Trump suggested that Mexico was deliberately sending its criminals to the US so that they don’t have to pay for them to be kept in jail.
He likened its policy to the Mariel boatlift out of Cuba in 1980 when more than 100,000 Cubans claimed asylum in the US.
He said: ‘I love the Mexican people. I loved the spirit of the Mexican people. I respect Mexico. The problem is their leaders are much smarter than our leaders. Their negotiatiors are much tougher than our negotiators.
‘They are much more cunning. And they kill us at the border. People flow through like water. And they send people through that they don’t want.
‘Do you remember the old days with (Fidel) Castro where he emptied his jails and sent them all to the United States? Well Mexico does similar things in a much more sophisticated manner’.
Trump also batted away a question from a Roberto Salinas, the President of the Mexico Business Forum, who said he was ‘insulted’ by his xenophobic rhetoric.
Salinas asked sarcastically if Trump going to put a wall around each of the 50 states to stop American rapists and killers from roaming around.
Trump responded by jokingly asking if the government of Mexico had sent him. He repeated the jibe in Phoenix after opponents tried to interrupt him.
Among the few who spoke out against Trump was Linda Rawls, 56, a wine bar owner from Carefree, Arizona who held up a sign outside the ballroom saying: ‘Trump is not a libertarian’.
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