Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump linked illegal immigration and employment Saturday, pledging to start deporting offenders as soon as he is sworn in should he become the White House’s next occupant.
Trump all the while courted the black vote, claiming that the shooting of basketball star Dwyane Wade’s cousin will make African Americans support him, but the move instead triggered a firestorm of criticism.
“On Day One, I am going to begin swiftly removing criminal illegal immigrants from this country – including removing the hundreds of thousands of criminal illegal immigrants that have been released into US communities under the Obama-Clinton administration,” Trump told supporters in Des Moines, Iowa.
Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s first term in office. The next president will be sworn in on January 20.
“I am going to build a great border wall, institute nationwide e-verify, stop illegal immigrants from accessing welfare and entitlements and develop an exit-entry tracking system to ensure those who overstay their visas are quickly removed,” Trump warned.
The billionaire real estate magnate and former reality TV host — in a white baseball cap — said that “If we don’t enforce visa expiration dates, then we have an open border. It’s as simple as that.”
The proposal echoed the language of Trump’s former primary rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is now advising him.
“A vote for Trump is a vote to have a nation of laws, a vote for Clinton is a vote for open borders,” he stressed.
Details of Trump’s immigration policies remain scant. He rallied much of his primary support with a controversial hardline tone against illegal immigrants and his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border.
Some of his advisers are now reportedly urging him to tone down his signature policy priority.
‘War on farmers’
Trump’s speech at the annual “Roast and Ride” fundraiser for Republican Sen. Joni Ernst came just hours after Clinton received her first national security briefing as the Democratic presidential nominee, and he warned supporters of a “war on the American farmer,” waged by Clinton.
Trump skipped the 42-mile motorcycle ride that preceded the event in a state where polls show a tight contest, a rare bright spot for Trump amid a sea of challenging battleground states. Joining him on stage were top Iowa Republicans — among them Ernst, Gov. Terry Branstad, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Steve King — in a rare show of support for a candidate who has struggled to unite his party.
In a hat tip to Iowa’s agriculture industry, Trump renewed his commitment to continuing a requirement that all gasoline sold contain an ethanol-based additive, an issue important to corn growers. He also promised to cut taxes on family farms, which he called the “backbone” of the country.
“Hillary Clinton wants to shut down family farms just like she wants to shut down the mines and the steelworkers,” he said in front of a wall of straw bales at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. “She will do this not only through radical regulation, but also by raising taxes on family farms – and all businesses – to rates as high as nearly 50 percent.”
Clinton’s campaign website touts a plan to increase funding to support farmers and ranchers in local food markets and regional food systems, saying she’ll create a “focused safety net to help family farms get through challenging times.” It also says she plans to target federal resources in commodity payment, crop insurance, and disaster assistance programs to support family operations.
Branstad, in an interview with The Associated Press prior to the speech, said he felt that Trump could score points against Clinton by focusing on agricultural issues. Branstad, whose son runs Trump’s campaign in the state, said he also hopes Trump would launch campaign ads there and that he sees the race as “about even.”
“I don’t like that but, hopefully, that’s going to change,” Branstad said.
Chasing the black vote
Trump also made appeals to black voters, promising to help African Americans find jobs.
“Every time an African American citizen, or any citizen, loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been totally violated,” he argued.
Hours before, Trump had tweeted: “Dwayne Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago,” initially misspelling the basketball player’s first name before correcting it later. “Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”
He was referring to the shooting death on Friday of Nykea Aldridge during an exchange of gunfire between two men as she pushed a baby stroller in Chicago.
Trump’s comments unleashed a torrent of criticism spearheaded by actor Don Cheadle, who has starred in such films as “Hotel Rwanda” (2004), denouncing the bombastic billionaire for trying to score political points on the back of a murder.
“He doesn’t give a fkk. More red meat to his alt-right troglodytes,” Cheadle wrote on Twitter, referring to an ultra-conservative movement largely seen as white supremacist and anti-Semitic.
“You don’t get to cherry pick. All the architects on left and right have failed that city. But Drumpf ain’t the ansr.”
Cheadle lambasted the 2016 presidential election for being “like a Shakespearean farce except it could end in a mushroom cloud.”
Several hours after firing off his first tweet on Wade, Trump offered a more somber and contrite message: “My condolences to Dwyane Wade and his family, on the loss of Nykea Aldridge. They are in my thoughts and prayers.”
Campaigning in Florida, Clinton running mate Tim Kaine said, “We just ought to be extending our sympathy to the family,” and added, “That’s the only reaction that’s appropriate right now.”