Donald Trump's immigration speech in Arizona confirms he hasn't changed at all
At a rally in Phoenix on Wednesday night, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump dropped his campaign's confused flirtation with less extreme rhetoric on immigration in recent weeks.
Instead, Trump promised when he is president "Those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only: to return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined today."
"There will be no amnesty," he added.
Though Trump said he would create a "deportation force" that would focus on undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, he left little ambiguity about the fate of any of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. if they are detected by authorities.
"No one will be immune or exempt from enforcement – and [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and Border Patrol officers will be allowed to do their jobs," Trump told the crowd. "Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation – that is what it means to have laws and to have a country."
In addition to criminals, Trump stated, enforcement priorities would include those undocumented immigrants relying on public services supposedly meant for U.S. citizens: "Those who abuse our welfare system will be priorities for removal."
Other policy proposals Trump expounded upon included "zero tolerance" of "criminal aliens," ending federal funding for sanctuary cities, "extreme" ideological vetting of all immigrants and visa applicants, and the creation of a "new immigration commission" which would restrict levels of legal immigration to favor U.S. workers.
As for his promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico — the subject of an international flap between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto earlier in the day — the candidate promised Mexico will still be paying for it, even if "they don't know it yet."
He repeatedly blamed undocumented immigrants for a (non-existent) wave of violent crime, bringing on stage a group of U.S. parents whose children had died under such circumstances.
To put it another way, rumors of a Trump pivot have been greatly exaggerated.
There's no going back now.
"I think people keep waiting for a new version of Trump to show up," New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said during a live blog of the night's events. "People keep trying to rationalize what he's saying as an act, or, as his now-fired campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, put it to Republican officials, a 'persona.' But Trump reverts to this tenor basically every time."