Republican presidential candidate – who wants to build a border wall – will meet Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday ahead of major immigration speech
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has confirmed that he will travel to Mexico on Wednesday to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City.
Moments before taking the stage for a rally in Everett, Washington, just north of Seattle, Trump tweeted that he had “accepted the invitation of President Enrique Peña Nieto, of Mexico, and look very much forward to meeting him tomorrow”.
I have accepted the invitation of President Enrique Pena Nieto, of Mexico, and look very much forward to meeting him tomorrow.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2016
The meeting will happen hours before Trump is scheduled to deliver a major address on immigration in Phoenix, Arizona, in which he will aim to clarify hisincreasingly murky stance on the issue.
It was confirmed by the official Twitter account for the Mexican presidency, which tweeted:
— Presidencia México (@PresidenciaMX) August 31, 2016
Translated, the tweet says that Trump “has accepted the invitation and will meet privately tomorrow with the president”.
Peña Nieto – who has previously compared Trump to Hitler and Mussolini – saidvia Twitter that he had invited both presidential candidates to Mexico “to discuss bilateral relations”, adding: “I believe in dialogue to promote the interests of Mexico in the world and to protect Mexicans wherever they are.”
The Trump campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment. However, Josh Green, a reporter for Bloomberg News, said Trump would be accompanied on the trip by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions.
Trump, who launched his campaign in 2015 with the announcement that immigrants from Mexico were “bringing rapists”, had been scheduled to appear at fundraisers in California on Wednesday morning, before delivering his immigration address in Phoenix at 6pm local time (9pm ET).
The trip to Mexico City to meet with Peña Nieto – who has previously invited Trump to debate him in Mexico – will likely occur somewhere in the middle of the day.
The proposal was first broached with the US embassy in Mexico City earlier this week, a fast-tracking of an international visit by an American presidential candidate that is typically planned over the course of weeks.
In recent days, Trump has been increasingly vague on his position about the legal status of the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US. During the Republican primary, Trump appealed to the conservative base by calling for a “deportation force” to remove all undocumented aliens from the country.
However, on a recent trip to Iowa,Trump said the policy issue was driven by the media. “In recent days, the media – as it usually does – has missed the whole point on immigration. All the media wants to talk about is the 11 million or more people here illegally,” he said at a fundraiser for Republican senator Joni Ernst.
In front of a crowd in Everett on Tuesday evening, Trump made no mention of his upcoming diplomatic mission, focusing instead on campaign favorites, including a rambling story in rhyming couplets about an ungrateful and poisonous snake, intended as an allegory about Muslim refugees to the US.
Also notably absent from the speech was perhaps Trump’s most essential motif: the wall he proposes to build along the US-Mexico border.
Trump’s approval ratings among Latino voters are historically bad, and his relationship with Peña Nieto’s government is even worse. Trump has longpledged to force Mexico to pay for the 2,000-mile (3,220km) border wall, a suggestion the Mexican president responded to coldly.
“No way,” Peña Nieto told CNN earlier this year.
Peña Nieto has fallen on hard political times in recent months. The latest polls put his approval rating at just 23%, according to Mexico News Daily, as the president has been hit by personal scandals, as well as allegations of human rights abuses by police officers. Protests by teachers opposed to his educational reforms have led to widespread unrest and several deaths.
It is hard to see how inviting Trump to meet him would help Peña Nieto domestically, as Trump is, unsurprisingly, considerably less popular in Mexico than the president. In March, city legislators passed a non-legally binding bill to ban Trump from Mexico’s capital.
Peña Nieto’s predecessor, former president Vicente Fox, has been considerably more vocal in speaking out against the Republican nominee, calling Trump’s ideas “racist” and saying “I declare: I’m not going to pay for that fucking wall.”
A spokesperson for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said the focus should remain on Trump’s immigration speech in Arizona. Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for Hillary for America, said: “From the first days of his campaign, Donald Trump has painted Mexicans as ‘rapists’ and criminals and has promised to deport 16 million people, including children and US citizens. He has said we should force Mexico to pay for his giant border wall. He has said we should ban remittances to families in Mexico if Mexico doesn’t pay up.
“What ultimately matters is what Donald Trump says to voters in Arizona, not Mexico, and whether he remains committed to the splitting up of families and deportation of millions.”
Launching his presidential bid last year, Trump claimed “the US has become a dumping ground for everyone else’s problems”, pointing the finger at Mexico.
“They’re sending us not the right people,” he said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems.
“They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”