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Donald Trump outlines immigration plan following surprise trip to Mexico

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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump, whose explosive rhetoric on illegal immigration is the hallmark of his presidential campaign, made a quick trip to Mexico on Wednesday to meet with that country's president and then returned to the United States to deliver a hard-line speech on his signature issue.

Within the span of a few hours, the Republican nominee offered a sharp contrast: a somewhat subdued attempt to appear statesmanlike in Mexico, followed by tough, anti-immigrant rhetoric in an address to cheering supporters in Arizona.

Trump largely stuck by his controversial promises to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, saying "anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation." He also dramatically reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the Mexico border and introduced emotional examples of the violence he says is caused by illegal immigration.

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He described the cases of murder victims who died at the hands of illegal immigrants, and he said the United States should focus on only allowing immigrants "who will thrive, flourish, and love us." Several people whose loved ones were killed by illegal immigrants joined him on stage.

"Not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate," he said. "Sometimes it's just not going to work out."

He went into detail than his previous plan for "extreme vetting" of immigrants, calling for a screening test to serve as ideological certification that would ask applicants about their views of honor killings; respect for women, gays, and minorities; and attitudes on radical Islam.

The highly anticipated speech in Arizona followed his unusual visit to Mexico, where he appeared with President Enrique Peña Nieto in a country he's antagonized with his calls to build a border wall and demonization of its immigrants as rapists and drug dealers.

His surprise trip triggered criticism of Peña Nieto from other Mexican politicians and consternation in the United States over Trump's penchant for theatrical flair just hours before the master showman was to deliver one of the most critical addresses of his campaign.

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The hastily arranged meeting was a high-risk gambit that provided mixed results: Trump had the most presidential-seeming visit of his campaign, but it prompted questions over whether Mexico would pay for a wall along the border, which has been one of Trump's campaign promises.

During a press conference in Mexico City, Trump said that while he and Peña Nieto discussed a border wall, Trump did not bring up who would pay for it. He said such a discussion would be brought up at "a later date." It was a stark departure from the Trump on the campaign trail who has taken to gleefully asking the thousands who attend his rallies who will pay for the wall. "Mexico!" they shout in response.

Peña Nieto, though, later directly contradicted Trump by tweeting that, "At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall."

Just hours later, during his speech in Phoenix, Trump said the wall would be "impenetrable, tall, powerful, beautiful" — equipped with "above-and below-ground sensors, towers, aerial surveillance, and manpower."

"Mexico will pay for the wall, 100 percent," he said. "They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for the wall."

Trump, after months of incendiary remarks, was expected to try to adopt a more compassionate tone as he outlined his vision for securing the country.

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There were some more nuanced approaches, with an introduction from former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was wearing a hat that said, "Make Mexico Great Again Also."

"In the end, we're all going to win," Trump said at the start of his speech. "Both countries. We're all going to win."

"We will treat everyone living in our country with great dignity," he added later. "We will be fair, just, and compassionate to all. But our greatest compassion must be for our American citizens."

But most of the speech — written to appeal to his base of supporters, not expand his outreach to more moderate Republicans — relied on his aggressive language and tone. He said he would quickly triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and rid the country of undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes.

"You can call it deported if you want," he said. "You can call it whatever the hell you want. They're gone."

Trump cited a Boston Globe investigation in making the argument that thousands of "criminal aliens" were released back into US communities because their home countries would not take them back.

The speech offered Trump a high-profile stage to clarify his position following more than a week of mixed messaging from his campaign about whether the Republican nominee was softening his hard-line stance against undocumented immigrants.

Trump throughout the primary has touted his intent to use a "deportation force" to round up and deport all undocumented immigrants.

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Trump reiterated Wednesday a variety of immediate measures, including the enforcement of existing immigration laws, ending so-called "sanctuary cities" by cutting off federal grants to any city that does not enforce federal immigration laws and implementing a E-Verify system to prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants.

"You can't just smuggle in, hunker down, and wait to be legalized," Trump said.

He said he would instruct the State Department, Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice to draw up a list of regions where immigration should be suspended, beginning with Syria and Libya.

Trump's meeting with Peña Nieto was his first with a head of state as a presidential candidate. Trump, who often projects supreme confidence, seemed less steady as he was forced to rely on a translator speaking by his side during lengthy remarks from Peña Nieto, who spoke first and in Spanish.

Peña Nieto characterized their discussion as "very open and constructive." He said they talked about how to improve things on both sides of the border and how to clear up misunderstandings.

At the end of their prepared remarks, Trump seemed more in his element as he took questions and adopted a more free-flowing style.

Trump emphasized that he will work collaboratively with Peña Nieto to solve what he now refers to as mutual problems of illegal immigration.

"The president and I will solve those problems," he said. "It's not a one-way street."

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Trump called Peña Nieto a "friend," thanked him for the "tremendous honor" of visiting, and shook his hand. He also emphatically praised Mexican-Americans for their contributions to the United States.

"I happen to have a tremendous feeling for Mexican-Americans," Trump said, referring to his friends and "the tremendous numbers I employ." "They are amazing people."

Trump and Peña Nieto previously had a strained relationship as the two leaders traded insults through the media. Peña Nieto this year compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He and other Mexican leaders have also criticized Trump's characterization of illegal immigrants from Mexico and scoffed at the idea that Mexico would pay for Trump's wall.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, speaking from Ohio on Wednesday, criticized Trump's decision to travel to Mexico.

"It certainly takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours and then flying home again," the former secretary of state said. ''That is not how it works.''

Peña Nieto had extended an invitation to Clinton as well. Her campaign noted that she had met with Peña Nieto in 2014 and will meet with him again at an appropriate time.


Tracy Jan can be reached at tracy.jan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TracyJan.