Trump lays out immigration policy in highly anticipated speech following Mexico visit

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 31:  Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on August 31, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump detailed a multi-point immigration policy during his speech. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 31: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on August 31, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump detailed a multi-point immigration policy during his speech. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Donald Trump vowed Wednesday to deliver “the truth” about illegal immigration as he began to lay out his policy proposals to remedy the the U.S. immigration system, which he argued “is worse than anybody ever realized.”

Trump tried on Wednesday to clarify his controversial immigration policy, just hours after he traveled to Mexico to visit that country’s president — a meeting Trump characterized as productive and “very special” as he opened his remarks.

“If we’re going to make our immigration system work, then we have to be prepared to talk honestly and without fear about these important and very sensitive issues,” Trump said.

The speech laid out a range of policy prescriptions to stem the tide of illegal immigration. It followed a week during which Trump and his campaign publicly wrestled with how to handle the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US.

It’s an especially fraught moment for the Republican nominee because he surged to victory in the primaries with hardline rhetoric against illegal immigration, including a pledge to deport all undocumented immigrants. But he appears to be trying to use a moderate tone to appeal to suburban white voters in the general election without alienating his base.

Trump began his week of public handwringing on the issue by vowing last Monday that he was “not flip-flopping” on immigration, but that he was looking to “come up with a fair but firm process.”

The next day, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that “there could certainly be a softening” of his deportation policy and suggested his administration would “work with” undocumented immigrants, rather than deport them — which would mark a major flip-flop. But two days later, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he would offer “no path to legalization” and suggested deportation was back on the table.

Meanwhile, his campaign scrapped plans for Trump to deliver his immigration speech last Thursday in the battleground state of Colorado and then dismissed reports that Trump would speak on immigration Wednesday in Phoenix, until Trump tweeted he would in fact deliver the speech there.

Trump started off Wednesday night saying that he had a “thoughtful and substantive” conversation with Mexico’s president.

He said his surprise meeting with Enrique Peña Nieto included a discussion of stopping the flow of illegal drugs across the southern border, and a shared goal to put drug cartels out of business.

Trump launched his campaign with a speech that accused Mexico of sending its rapists and criminals across the border. But Trump is striking a different tone Wednesday, saying that, if the countries work together, “we’re all going to win.”

Then, Trump continued on, detailing the stories of illegal immigrants who committed violent crimes.

Trump told thousands in the convention center in downtown Phoenix that he has “met with many of the great parents who lost their children to sanctuary cities and open borders.”

He talked about beatings and stabbings of young women, then said simply, “It’s not going to happen anymore.”

Trump also said the nation’s immigration policy must focus on what is best for American citizens, not those living in the country illegally.

He said, “There is only one core issue in the immigration debate and that issue is the well-being of the American people.”

Still he says that he intends to treat “everyone living or residing” in the country with “great dignity.”

Trump also accused President Barack Obama and his rival Hillary Clinton of engaging in a “gross dereliction of duty” for supporting more liberal immigration policies.

He said that Clinton talks about the families that would be separated if people in the country illegally were deported, but she doesn’t talk about families impacted negatively by illegal immigration.

Just days ago, Trump was praising the number of people deported under the Obama administration.

Despite his conversation with the Mexican president earlier in the day, Trump continued to insist that Mexico will pay for the wall he wants to build along the length of the southern border.

Trump said that Mexico will pay for the wall, “100 percent.”

“They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for” it.

Trump met with Mexico’s president earlier Wednesday and said they did not discuss who would pay for the massive wall that has been at the center of Trump’s campaign.

But President Enrique Peña Nieto said he reiterated to Trump that Mexico would not be paying for the wall.

Trump also said he will order the immediate detention of all known immigrants in the U.S. illegally who have been arrested for crimes.

He says on the first day in office he will “issue detainers for illegal immigrants who are arrested” and initiate immediate proceedings to remove them.

For people caught crossing the border illegally, Trump referenced the 1950s-era “Operation Wetback.” He said that “we will take them great distances” instead of sending them just across the U.S. border.

Trump said, “We will take them to the country where they came from.”

He said his administration will take a hard line on criminal aliens. He said the U.S. will be “moving them out on Day One.”

To thunderous applause, Trump continues that he will seek legislation to block federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities that shelter immigrants in the country illegally.’

Though he seemed to be taking a more moderate tone earlier in the day, during his speech he continued his tough talk on immigration, saying that anyone who entered the country illegally “will be subject to deportation” if he’s elected president.

He said that “no one” among the 11 million people who are in the United States illegally “will be immune or exempt from enforcement” on his watch.

But Trump says he will set priorities for removing people from the United States.