Trump doesn’t back off at bor­der

Can­di­date takes fiery immigration mes­sage to re­cep­tive Phoenix crowd

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY PHILIP RUCKER AND ROBERT COSTA

phoenix — Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump, whose caus­tic com­ments about Mex­i­cans have in­flamed the immigration de­bate, told thou­sands of cheer­ing sup­port­ers here Satur­day that “we have to take back the heart of our coun­try.”

In a ram­bling, de­fi­ant speech de­liv­ered in this bor­der state that has been the epi­cen­ter of the na­tion’s di­vi­sive bat­tle over immigration re­form, Trump de­clared, “These are peo­ple that shouldn’t be in our coun­try. They flow in like wa­ter.” One man in the crowd of 4,200 shouted back, “Build a wall!”

Bask­ing in polls that show he has risen to the top of the crowded Repub­li­can field, Trump took ob­vi­ous glee in mock­ing for­mer Florida gover­nor Jeb Bush, the es­tab­lish­ment fa­vorite who is set­ting fundrais­ing records.

“Jeb Bush, let’s say he’s pres­i­dent — Oy, yoy, yoy,” Trump said. He asked the crowd: “How can Ibe tied with this guy? He’s ter­ri­ble. Ter­ri­ble. He’s weak on immigration.”

Trump’s 70-minute ad­dress

here, which sounded more like a stream-of-con­scious­ness rant than a pres­i­den­tial-style stump speech, put an ex­cla­ma­tion point on his bom­bas­tic push since his pres­i­den­tial an­nounce­ment last month to re­turn immigration to the fore­front of the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion.

Bush and illegal im­mi­grants were not the only tar­gets of Trump’s scorn: He also crit­i­cized Macy’s, NBC, NASCAR, U.S. am­bas­sador to Ja­pan Caro­line Kennedy, Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton and, sev­eral times, the media.

Repub­li­can lead­ers say they be­lieve the celebrity bil­lion­aire has vir­tu­ally no chance of be­ing their nom­i­nee, much less of mak­ing it to the White House. And, for now at least, his fol­low­ing seems lim­ited to the far right as op­posed to the party’s main­stream.

Yet Trump has reignited a heated de­bate over an is­sue, immigration, that the GO Phad been de­ter­mined to set­tle af­ter it hurt Repub­li­cans in the most re­cent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Party lead­ers in­creas­ingly fear that Trump could do dam­age to more vi­able can­di­dates, such as Bush, who could lose their own foot­ing on immigration. These can­di­dates con­front a fa­mil­iar chal­lenge: Dur­ing the pri­mary sea­son, they must deal with the anger and anx­i­ety that many on the right feel about illegal immigration. But they must do it in a way that will not dam­age their ap­peal to a broader elec­torate in Novem­ber 2016.

Repub­li­cans are han­dling Trump del­i­cately for another rea­son as well: They fear that he could leave the GOP en­tirely and wage a well-funded third-party cam­paign, a pos­si­bil­ity Trump that has not ruled out.

Af­ter Trump re­peat­edly re­ferred to illegal im­mi­grants in the harsh­est of terms — call­ing them, among other things, killers and rapists — Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus called Trump and asked him to tone things down. But that, if any­thing, has rein­vig­o­rated Trump and his vo­cal sup­port­ers.

The crowd in Phoenix be­gan lin­ing up out­side the con­ven­tion cen­ter be­fore dawn, with many spend­ing hours in tem­per­a­tures that ex­ceeded 100 de­grees. Hun­dreds of peo­ple, who stood in lines snaking down sev­eral down­town blocks, did not make it into the ball­room for his speech.

Many of Trump’s sup­port­ers blame illegal im­mi­grants for crime and eco­nomic prob­lems but also ex­press dis­may over cul­tural changes.

“We don’t rec­og­nize our coun­try any­more,” said Jan Drake, 72, who lives in a re­tire­ment com­mu­nity out­side Phoenix. “If you’re com­ing into our coun­try, you have got to con­form to what we stand for. You speak English. You don’t try to change our coun­try to what your coun­try was.”

Af­ter watch­ing Trump on tele­vi­sion the past cou­ple of weeks, Drake said that she has be­come con­vinced that “he would be a very strong pres­i­dent. He doesn’t kow­tow to any­body. The Republi- can Party will try to squeeze him out be­cause they’re afraid of him. But he can tell them where to go— to pound sand.”

Af­ter he walked onto a cat­walk stage here like a rock star, Trump basked in his crowd. “The word is get­ting out that we have to stop illegal immigration,” he said.

While Trump was rail­ing against Span­ish-lan­guage broad­caster Univi­sion, a hand­ful of protesters in the crowd in­ter­rupted. Trump’s se­cu­rity guards ar­rived to break up the skir­mish that fol­lowed. His sup­port­ers screamed “USA! USA! USA!” in the protesters’ faces as the guards es­corted them out of the con­ven­tion hall.

“I won­der if the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment sent them over here,” Trump said from the stage. He as­sured the crowd, “Don’t worry, we’ll take our coun­try back.”

Trumpal so had harsh words for Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists. If he be­comes pres­i­dent, Trump said, “They will be in such trou­ble ... ISIS, be­lieve me, I would take them out so fast. You have to do it.”

But it was his cru­sade against illegal im­mi­grants that had Trump’s crowd most en­thused. Af­ter ex­press­ing shock that his immigration mes­sage has res­onated so strongly with the GOP base, Trump said, “The silent ma­jor­ity is back, and we’re go­ing to take the coun­try back.” He walked off the stage to Twisted Sis­ter’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

Ear­lier, as his plush Boe­ing 757 headed from an ap­pear­ance in Las Ve­gas to Phoenix, Trump sat in a leather chair, sur­rounded by binders of ar­ti­cles about him and sip­ping a Coca-Cola— the full-calo­rie kind, he noted, be­cause, “Have you ever seen a thin per­son drink­ing Diet Coke?”

“Some­thing is hap­pen­ing in Amer­ica. Youmay not want to see it, but some­thing big is hap­pen­ing. Peo­ple are sick and tired of politi­cians, and I’m here for them,” he said in an in­ter­view. “I’m ready to go right at the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment. I’m go­ing to charge them $25,000 per illegal im­mi­grant and, oh, I’ll make them pay.”

(In his Phoenix speech, Trump put the fig­ure at $100,000.)

“Would Bush do that? Would Ru­bio? I don’t think so,” Trump added, tak­ing aim at two of his more main­stream ri­vals, Bush and Sen. Marco Ru­bio (R-Fla.).

Polls con­sis­tently show that a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing most Repub­li­cans, sup­port an over­haul of the law to give mil­lions of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants a means of stay­ing in this coun­try legally. But a pas­sion­ate frac­tion of the Repub­li­can elec­torate be­lieve oth­er­wise.

Lou Brud­nock, 71, said he is at­tracted to Trump’s brash “truth­ful­ness” on immigration and his will­ing­ness to be po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect.

“This coun­try to­day is sad, sad, sad,” Brud­nock said. “You can’t say any­thing or they call you ‘a racist.’ It’s like we’re back in Nazi Ger­many. But look around, man. It’s peo­ple here read­ing and lis­ten­ing to his mes­sage.”

Trump, by virtue of his celebrity, has pro­voked a back­lash far more wide­spread than ever seen to­ward lesser-known immigration hard-lin­ers, such as for­mer Colorado con­gress­man Tom Tan­credo (R). That means he could leave last­ing dam­age to the GOP and who­ever turns out to be its 2016 stan­dard-bearer.

All of those cross-pres­sures were in play Satur­day at Trump’s ap­pear­ances here and in Las Ve­gas. More main­stream Repub­li­cans had an­tic­i­pated the spec­ta­cle and made no se­cret of their con­cern.

“I had hoped that we had moved on from some of the coarse rhetoric,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (RARIZ.). “When there’s so many can­di­dates, you can ap­peal to a very small seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion and get news and get el­e­vated.” Flake is a lead­ing pro­po­nent of a com­pre­hen­sive immigration mea­sure that would in­clude a path to cit­i­zen­ship for those who are in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Ari­zona has been a hot­bed of anti-immigration sen­ti­ment, hav­ing passed a 2010 law that re­quires law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to check the immigration sta­tus of peo­ple they de­tain and sus­pect are in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Mari­copa County, Ariz., Sher­iff Joe Arpaio— who in some ways is the face of that law, hav­ing been the sub­ject of racial-pro­fil­ing law­suits— helped warm up the crowd be­fore Trump’s ar­rival.

“I know that Don­ald Trump is speak­ing out,” Arpaio said. “He’s get­ting a lot of heat. But, you know, there’s a silent ma­jor­ity out here.”

“We’re not silent any­more!” a man in the crowd shouted.

Arpaio brought up the mostly dor­mant ques­tion­ing of Pres­i­dent Obama’s birth cer­tifi­cate. He and Trump are per­haps the most vo­cal of the “birthers,” who falsely con­tend that Obama was not born in the United States.

Immigration also has gained new at­ten­tion af­ter the June 30 shoot­ing death of a woman along San Fran­cisco’s heav­ily touristed wa­ter­front, al­legedly by an illegal im­mi­grant who had been de­ported five times from the United States.

Trump — along with much of the rest of the Repub­li­can field — has crit­i­cized the poli­cies of “sanc­tu­ary cities,” where of­fi­cials can­not de­tain those they sus­pect of be­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally un­less they have other grounds to do so.

Repub­li­can strate­gists say that it is pos­si­ble to ad­dress anx­i­ety over illegal immigration within the GOP base with­out alien­at­ing the elec­torate at large. Ad­vis­ers to Bush and Ru­bio, for in­stance, say that their can­di­dates can play a long game on the is­sue, con­tin­u­ing to make a case for com­pre­hen­sive changes to the law, while wait­ing for the Trump boom­let to sub­side.

“You can give a fuller pic­ture of those types of peo­ple who are com­ing to Amer­ica who are not doc­u­mented, who are not le­gal,” said Peter Wehner, who was a top of­fi­cial in Ge­orge W. Bush’s White House. “And you can speak about them in a hu­mane and de­cent and true way.”

CHAR­LIE LEIGHT/GETTY IM­AGES

GOP can­di­date Don­ald Trump ad­dresses sup­port­ers dur­ing a rally in Phoenix. He sug­gested he would re­quire theMex­i­can gov­ern­ment to pay for each im­mi­grant who en­ters the United States il­le­gally.

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