Wednesday was a very good day for Donald Trump and his campaign. He met with the president of Mexico, participated in joint statements that were carried live in the United States on cable channels, and he delivered an immigration speech in Arizona filled with plenty of red meat for his base.
Sure, there were disputable statements. For instance, near the end of their joint appearance, Trump said that he and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto did not discuss who would pay for the wall in their private meeting. Trump has made building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border a centerpiece of his campaign since the beginning. And he has repeatedly told supporters that Mexico would pay for it.
President Nieto, apparently unprepared for reporter's questions, did not attempt to correct Trump during their joint appearance. But after Trump departed the presidential palace, Los Pinos, President Nieto took to Twitter to clarify the issue. "At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall," he tweeted. The president is very unpopular in Mexico and he received much criticism for agreeing to meet with Trump, perhaps the only man more unpopular than he is in Mexico. Trump may have prevaricated, but he got a much desired photo-op with a world leader.
The Mexican trip was put together over the past few days by Trump's campaign team and then announced the night before he travelled to Mexico City. The Mexican trip came on the same day he was scheduled to outline in detail his immigration policy in Arizona. Over the past week Trump had been accused of softening his position on immigration in order to win back Republicans who were concerned about his extreme rhetoric on the issue during the primary campaign. A Fox News poll released Wednesday found that 48% of Trump supporters would be more likely to vote for him if he "softened his position on handling illegal immigrants living in the United States."
A fiery Trump took the stage in Phoenix vowing there would be "no amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, that he would build a "beautiful" wall along the border, and that Mexico would pay for it. Trump laid out a ten point plan that focused heavily on securing the border, crime by undocumented immigrants, reforming immigration laws, and cutting off federal funding to sanctuary cities. His speech included attacks on his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, and Washington for failing on immigration. Trump fed off the wildly enthusiastic crowd.
But Trump's speech was filled with claims that are factually untrue. Illegal immigration has actually been declining in recent years, and more Mexicans are leaving the United States for Mexico than are coming to the U.S. Also, numerous studies show that "immigrants--regardless of their legal status--are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated." And many studies have found that illegal immigrants do not takes jobs away from native Americans.
Trump's plan for undocumented immigrants included an end to the catch and release policy, zero-tolerance for those who have committed a crime, a tripling of the number of deportation officers, repeal of President Obama's executive orders, no more visas for any country where "adequate screening cannot occur," and an "ideological certification" to ensure that immigrants share America's values. While Trump said that all 11 million illegal immigrants would have to leave the country and apply for reentry, he did not specify a time frame for deporting them all.
Trump told his supporters what they wanted to hear. He also noted that the latest polls show he has closed the gap with Hillary Clinton. Trump appeared to have his old mojo back, even though he used a teleprompter. He was brash, strident and at times overly harsh. Facts don't matter to Trump; rather the performance is what counts. And his presentation played to those who are fearful, angry and frustrated with the federal government.
Trump put on quite a show Wednesday. More importantly, he dominated the news cycle for another day, and no one loves that more than Donald Trump.