Wall looms large over Trump’s trip
In Mexico, GOP nominee and host differ on if funds discussed
MEXICO CITY — Showcasing his flair for the dramatic, Donald Trump flew his unpredictable campaign to Mexico on Wednesday and, in a hastily arranged summit with the country’s president, insisted on building a border wall and ending illegal immigration.
The trip to a nation he has repeatedly maligned was a stunning move for Trump, who spoke alongside President Enrique Pena Nieto after their meeting. Trump controlled the brief news conference, barely let Pena Nieto speak, and called on no Mexican reporters when he took questions.
He used far more conciliatory language than he has on the campaign trail, at one point referring to Pena Nieto as “a friend.”
“I was straightforward in presenting my views about the impacts of current trade and immigration policies on the United States,” Trump said. “There are many improvements that could be Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto prepare Wednesday to deliver a news conference in Mexico City. made that would make both Mexico and the United States stronger and keep industry in our hemisphere. A strong, prosperous and vibrant Mexico is in the best interest of the United States.”
Trump marched into decidedly hostile territory on a trip that puzzled and infuriated Mexicans across political lines. He has inspired widespread anger in Mexico, where Trump pinatas are for sale and he is frequently mocked online and in song. Demonstrators rallied around Mexico City’s gilded Angel de la Independencia statue and waved signs in English reading: “Trump, go home.”
Inside the presidential compound, Trump restrained the fiery persona he unleashes at campaign rallies in the U.S. Even as he insisted on building a border wall, he said he did not raise the idea of forcing Mexico to pay for it.
“We didn’t discuss payment of the wall,” Trump said, adding that such a conversation would come“at a later date.”
But after the news conference, Pena Nieto contradicted that claim, tweeting that he began the meeting with Trump by clarifying that Mexico would not pay for such a wall.
“At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall,” Pena Nieto tweeted in Spanish.
At the news conference, Pena Nieto referred to border security as a “shared responsibility” — an allusion to his government’s position that under no circumstances will it pay for a wall.
Later Wednesday in his long-awaited immigrationpolicy speech in Phoenix, Trump insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall.
“They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for” it, he said.
He also said the nation’s immigration policy must focus on what is best for American citizens, not those living in the country illegally. “There is only one core issue in the immigration debate and that issue is the wellbeing of the American people,” he said.
Still, he said he intends to treat everyone living in the U.S. with “great dignity.”
Trump reaffirmed that people in the U.S. illegally cannot receive legal status, despite recently suggesting he might be softening his stance on immigration.
He also said he would order the immediate detention of all known immigrants in the U.S. illegally who have been arrested for crimes.
At the news conference with Trump, Pena Nieto emphasized the need for cooperation, the advantages of the $500 billion in commerce the two nations share and potential points of agreement. But he also pushed back at the Republican nominee, who launched his campaign last summer by saying many Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals.
“My job is to protect Mexicans wherever they are, and I will continue to do that,” Pena Nieto told Trump, the two men standing at lecterns on a stage with one flag, Mexico’s. “Mexicans who live in the U.S. contribute to prosperity there. They are people who are honest and hardworking. They respect the law and deserve the respect of everyone.”
Pena Nieto seemed to leave the door open for renegotiating, or at least updating, the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, which governs commerce among Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Trump, who has called NAFTA “a disaster,” is likely to seize on that opening to trumpet a victory and push ahead with his anti-globalization campaign plank.