"I will build a great wall - and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me - and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
Ask anyone about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and the first thing he or she will be able to tell you is that Trump has big plans to address illegal immigration. Perhaps the most well-known element of these plans is the wall along the U.S. – Mexico border. After making it abundantly clear that he believes Mexico benefits more from its trade deals with the U.S. than does the United States and that our southern neighbor is sending drugs, rapists, and criminals to infiltrate America’s peaceful, previously crime-free streets, Trump proposed a massive structure to block the flow of immigrants across the border. What’s more? Mexico will pay the bill for the wall, which would have to span over 1,000 miles.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has condemned Trump’s harsh rhetoric against Mexico and its people. "There is no way to agree with comments like these which describe all Mexicans in such a way." He once likened Trump’s harsh rhetoric to that of Hitler and Mussolini.
He has also explained that Trump’s advocacy for a wall for which Mexico would pay is simply outlandish. "There is no way that Mexico can pay [for] a wall like that," he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
It appeared that Trump’s harsh rhetoric and Nieto’s strong stance against the Republican nominee were indicative of a tense, combative relationship between the two. Now, however, in a major turn of events, Trump has announced that he will make a surprise trip to Mexico this afternoon to visit with the president.
According to a statement from his office, Nieto invited both presidential candidates for a visit last Friday. The Washington Post reports that “Trump, sensing an opportunity, decided over the weekend to accept the invitation and push for a visit this week, according to the people in the United States and Mexico familiar with the discussions.”
Numerous aspects of this announcement are alarming. For one, Trump is not bringing the press corps with him to Mexico. This breaks a long-held tradition among presidential candidates who typically travel with their press corps to international meetings. Additionally, trips like this typically warrant weeks of planning. Trump, however, confirmed the trip just 18 hours prior to his expected arrival in Mexico City.
While some may see this visit as a staunch indication that Trump is lightening up on his immigration proposals, as has been the case in the past two weeks along the campaign trail, other pundits are less quick to jump to that conclusion. “What ultimately matters is what Donald Trump says to voters in Arizona, not Mexico, and whether he remains committed to the splitting up of families and deportation of millions,” wrote Jennifer Palmieri, a leading Clinton advisor. She is referring to a planned campaign event in Arizona tonight, in which Trump is expected to clarify his immigration stance amidst calls that he has flip-flopped on some of the key tenets of his proposal, including mass deportations and paths to citizenship.
The Clinton campaign has received the invitation letter from Nieto but has yet to confirm.
What do you think about this impromptu visit to Mexico? What do you think Trump hopes to achieve?