On Wednesday, Donald Trump traveled to Mexico City to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who once compared Trump to Hitler and Mussolini. The Mexican president came under fire for inviting Trump to meet with him in Mexico, a move many critics saw as legitimizing Trump’s positions. We speak to Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In a major speech on immigration in Phoenix, Arizona, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed to build a massive wall along the Mexican border and to begin deporting millions of immigrants as soon as he takes office, if elected in November. During the fiery speech, Trump vowed to deport 2 million people within his first hours in office.
DONALD TRUMP: We are going to triple the number of ICE deportation offices. Within ICE, I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice, just like Hillary Clinton has evaded justice. OK? Maybe they’ll be able to deport her.
AMY GOODMAN: According to an analysis by The Washington Post, Donald Trump’s new deportation plan would target more than 6 million individuals for immediate removal. Trump vowed there would be no amnesty, and repeated his call for suspending immigration from parts of the world.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: During his speech, Donald Trump also attempted to reach out to African-American and Latino voters.
DONALD TRUMP: We need a system that serves our needs, not the needs of others. Remember, under a Trump administration, it’s called America first. Remember that. To choose immigrants based on merit—merit, skill and proficiency—doesn’t that sound nice? And to establish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first, and that, in particular, African-American and Latino workers who are being shut out in this process so unfairly. And Hillary Clinton is going to do nothing for the African-American worker, the Latino worker. She’s going to do nothing. “Give me your vote,” she says, “on November 8th.” And then she’ll say, “So long. See you in four years.” That’s what it is.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Donald Trump’s speech in Phoenix came just hours after he met in Mexico City with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who once compared Trump to Hitler and Mussolini. Trump and Peña Nieto spoke to reporters after their meeting.
DONALD TRUMP: We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That will be for a later date. This was a very preliminary meeting. I think it was an excellent meeting. And we are—I think we’re very well on our way. A lot of the things I said are very strong, but we have to be strong. We have to say what’s happening. There is crime, as you know. There’s a lot of crime, and there’s a lot of problems.
AMY GOODMAN: Mexican President Peña Nieto later contradicted Trump’s assertion that the two didn’t discuss who would pay for the wall. Peña Nieto tweeted, after Trump left Mexico, “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall,” he tweeted. During his remarks, the Mexican president challenged Trump on a number of facts. He pointed out that undocumented immigration from Mexico to the United States peaked 10 years ago. He also warned that Mexico is facing a crisis because of what’s being smuggled from the United States into Mexico.
PRESIDENT ENRIQUE PEÑA NIETO: [translated] Every year, thousands of arms and millions of dollars in cash enter Mexico illegally from the north, strengthening cartels and other criminal organizations that generate violence in Mexico and obtain profits from the sale of drugs in the United States. This flow must be stopped.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by two guests. Laura Carlsen is director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy. And Carlos García is executive director of Puente Arizona, a grassroots human rights movement for migrant justice.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Why don’t we do this chronologically. We’ll start in Mexico City with Laura Carlsen. I want to play a clip of one of the protesters outside.
PROTESTER 1: [translated] Considering that he has been changing his discourse because, first, in order to win votes in a society that is plagued with people who think like him, he uses a discourse of hate. Now that he is not doing so well in numbers, he’s trying to negotiate with the people that he offended. How will this affect us? I think in the same way that all the governments of the United States affect us: considering the Mexicans as only useful as a source of cheap labor. But this hate speech is something that, as Mexicans, we cannot allow.
PROTESTER 2: [translated] He is speaking with someone who hates Mexicans, who calls us rapists and criminals. On the other hand, they have recently discovered many things about this figure who is going to speak with him, who is Peña Nieto. We have seen that he is very inconsistent. And that is why we are scared of what can happen in this secret, private and closed meeting.
PROTESTER 3: [translated] The fact that Peña Nieto invited Trump is an offense to all Mexicans. It is an aggressive act, an act of desperation, an act of ignorance of a president who is already in decline.
PROTESTER 4: [translated] I think his intention to construct a wall is very offensive. This physical division is just a representation of the geopolitical division and the human relations. We know there are so many families separated for this migration criteria.
AMY GOODMAN: Just some of the voices of protest outside the meeting between Trump and the Mexican president. Laura Carlsen, can you set the scene for us, and your response to and what people’s response was to a presidential candidate’s visit, particularly Donald Trump?
LAURA CARLSEN: Well, this all happened very fast. And the immediate response here in Mexico City and throughout Mexico was utter outrage. No one could understand why the president of Mexico would invite, not a statesman, but a candidate in a foreign election who’s actually the trailing candidate and one who has made the centerpiece of his campaign anti-Mexico and anti-Mexican statements—not just statements, but proposals that would have a dramatic negative effect on Mexico. No one could understand why this was done. And now that we’ve seen the results, it’s even less understandable. And there was immediate mobilizations. We had the mobilizations, the demonstrations in the streets. And we’ve also had the social networks buzzing with criticisms of Trump, of course, but also very strong criticisms against President Peña Nieto, who basically opened up this media opportunity for Donald Trump, which he used to the hilt.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Laura Carlsen, even a former president, Vicente Fox, did a YouTube blast, an attack on this invitation. Is it your sense, in terms of why Peña Nieto do this, was it because he, himself, has very low favorability ratings right now among the Mexican public?
LAURA CARLSEN: Well, the only explanation that’s really arisen for this is that somehow he did feel at a low point in his approval ratings, as you mentioned, that if he came out and presented a position against Trump or engaged in dialogue—that was the justification the presidency gave, that they were going to engage in dialogue, because they believe in dialogue, that it would somehow improve his standings. This was a terrible political calculation, because, first of all, he did not come out strongly against Trump’s positions. In fact, there were moments in the presentation after their meeting in which he actually seemed to be justifying, saying, “Well, Donald Trump has been misinterpreted,” or, “We really believe”—and this is almost verbatim—”that his genuine interests are for the well-being of both of our peoples.” Donald Trump immediately went back from Mexico to Arizona and gave one of his most hate-filled anti-Mexican speeches in the history of his campaign.
So, Peña Nieto is now trying to do damage control. He recognizes, as this—as was said since this proposal was put forth, that this was a historical error on his part. A political miscalculation would be an understatement. And he’s trying to come out with a stronger position. He did not at a single point publicly say that he was against the wall. There’s all this talk about who will pay for the wall, but what about the—that shouldn’t even merit a response on a diplomatic level. Mexico pay for a U.S. wall to shut out Mexicans? And nobody said this wall should never be built. This wall is tantamount to an act of war in two economies and two nations that are as close as Mexico and the United States.