Donald Trump Is Meeting with Mexico’s President on Wednesday
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
Republican nominee Donald Trump will make a hastily scheduled trip to Mexico Wednesday to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto just hours before he is scheduled to attempt to clarify his controversial, and sometimes conflicting, positions on immigration.
The trip is a high-stakes gamble by the bombastic billionaire reality television star, who is trailing in swing state and national polls, in meeting one of his most vocal critics on his home soil. While it offers Trump an opportunity to project his presidential side to American voters, the visit is also fraught with peril for a candidate who is a novice on the geopolitical stage and who is widely reviled in Mexico. Trump aides did not immediately detail the candidate’s goals for the meeting with Peña Nieto, who faces deep disapproval himself.
Trump, who has called for a concrete border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—and claimed that Mexico would pay for it— has been a frequent critic of Mexico on the campaign trail, calling for a renegotiation of NAFTA to prevent U.S. manufacturing from moving to that country. At his campaign announcement last June, Trump suggested that many Mexican immigrants to the U.S. are rapists.
The trip comes as his campaign has been bedeviled over his comments last week that he was “softening” his position on forcibly deporting the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally—about half of whom hail from Mexico. Since then, Trump has characterized his position as a “hardening,” while aides have maintained that he has been entirely consistent over the course of his campaign. On Tuesday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said categorically that Trump opposes any path to legal status for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally—and would instead empower law enforcement to ramp up deportations. Trump’s allies have backed away from the candidate’s promise to create a separate “deportation force,” but aides have said he intends to strengthen federal agencies to carry out more removals.
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Confirmed in a tweet by the candidate late Tuesday, the trip was organized in the last several days, with aides to the candidate and the Mexican leader working until the final minutes before the announcement to iron out the details for a visit that would normally require weeks of protocol and security planning. Peña Nieto’s office said in a subsequent tweet that the meeting would be private.
Peña Nieto has been a frequent critic of Trump’s policies and tone, rejecting the notion that Mexico would pay for a border wall. In March, he likened Trump’s nationalistic tone to that of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and warned that his rhetoric was damaging U.S.-Mexico relations.
The trip is Trump’s second trip overseas since declaring his campaign, the first being a June visit to the United Kingdom to mark the opening of one of his golf courses just days after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Peña Nieto has invited both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to visit to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries, according to his office. The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the invitation.
The Washington Post first reported Tuesday evening that the campaign was considering the visit.