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Donald Trump Visits The Border And Calls For Tougher Enforcement


Now let's talk about one of the people who wants to replace President Obama in the White House - Donald Trump, who went to the border with Mexico yesterday. The Republican candidate expressed outrage over illegal immigration.


Trump added that he had great relations with Hispanics on his payroll. He went on to predict that he would win the Hispanic vote. NPR's John Burnett reports.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: It would be a day for Laredo to remember. There on the airport tarmac sat Trump's sumptuous, red, white and blue Boeing 757 with his name in huge, gold letters that in lowercase mean to surpass, to outdo. The leading Republican candidate would disappoint those who came for a hair sighting. All day, he wore a white baseball cap that read, Make America Great Again. To that end, he traveled here to the ragged edge of America.


DONALD TRUMP: The people are saying, oh, it's so dangerous what you're doing, Mr. Trump. It's so dangerous what you're doing. I have to do it. I have to do it.

BURNETT: Outside, a boisterous crowd of angry veterans, Latino pride activists and a few supporters sweltered in the heat. Priscilla Trevino was wearing a specially printed T-shirt whose message contains words in English and Spanish that the FCC won't let us say.

PRISCILLA TREVINO: He talked bad about Hispanics, Latinos and basically our Mexican roots, family from over there. I mean, we're ain't racist or anything like that. We welcome everybody into our town, but he ain't welcome here.

BURNETT: Trump's police-escorted motorcade, presidential in size, made its way to the Bridge of the Americas. Standing a hundred yards from the Rio Grande, Trump stepped back from his idea to build a wall along the entire 2,000-mile border. On Thursday, he conceded a wall was appropriate only in certain places. Overall, he offered very few specifics on border security.


TRUMP: You have to create - you have to make the people that come in - they have to be legal - very simple.

BURNETT: He also brushed off questioners who pointed out that Texas border cities are among the safest in the nation.


TRUMP: There's great danger with the illegals, and we're just discussing that. But we have a tremendous danger on the border with the illegals coming in.

Yes, ma'am?

BURNETT: The entourage then roared away from the international river to its final stop - a meeting hall next to the airport. Inside, sat a couple of dozen off-duty border patrol agents who'd come out to hear him. The agents' local union had originally invited Trump to Laredo, but the union abruptly backed out under pressure from border agents around the country. According to a union official, some of the border officers are veterans who don't like how Trump disparaged the war record of Sen. John McCain. But some of the agents who heard Trump speak, appreciated his bluntness about the battle against immigrants they chase through the brush all day. Luis Villegas is a 28-year-old border patrol agent who's been on the force for eight years.

LUIS VILLEGAS: There's still laws that need to be followed in this country, and those people are disobeying those laws. It's kind of like a slap in the face to the people that immigrated to this country the right way.

BURNETT: Donald Trump's visit to Laredo was highly anticipated across the river in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where the candidate has been vilified in the press. Late in the day, 70-year-old Cesar Montoya, a retired machinist, relaxed in a park bench in a shady plaza in the enervating heat. Cicadas and ice cream sellers were the only thing stirring. He'd already heard that Donald Trump was trying to mend fences with Hispanics.

CESAR MONTOYA: (Speaking Spanish).

BURNETT: "He's trying to quiet the rage there is against him," Montoya said. "At the end of the day, he's a U.S. politician who made lots of enemies with those comments and a quick trip to the border is not going to fix that." John Burnett, NPR News, Laredo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.