Republican nominee Donald Trump traveled to Mexico Wednesday for a surprise meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“We’re united in our support for democracy,” Trump said after the meeting with the Mexican president, which was punctuated by protests and criticism of Peña Nieto for inviting Trump in the first place.
Trump had made the surprise announcement on Twitter that he accepted the Mexican president’s invitation to meet:
Trump arrived in Mexico via private jet on August 31 in the afternoon. See live coverage here.
Trump was met by protests in Mexico but also huge crowds. Hillary Clinton criticized the visit as a photo op, and as Trump dropping in on Mexico, CNN said. With Trump at his side, the Mexican president said illegal immigration to the United States is down and guns and drugs flow both directions over the border. However, Peña Nieto later disputed Trump’s contention that they didn’t discuss who would pay for a border wall.
Trump, of course, has sparked great controversy with his comments about Mexican immigration to the United States, including a pledge to build a wall at the Southern border, to stage mass deportations, and comments about some immigrants who commit crimes. However, his acceptance of the meeting invite also came as he has seemed poised in recent days to clarify his stance on immigration. However, that went out the window in Arizona after the Peña Nieto meeting, as Trump double down on the wall and opposed open borders.
So what’s the deal with the meeting between Trump and Pena Nieto?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Meeting Occurred Wednesday in Mexico City & Peña Nieto Has Previously Compared Trump to Adolf Hitler & Benito Mussolini
After the meeting, Trump said countries must work together to stop illegal immigration, and he said it was a problem that needed to be solved quickly.
Trump said he and Peña Nieto didn’t discuss who would pay for a wall, said CNN. He said they did discuss the wall itself, though. Politico said Trump insisted the Unites States has a right to build a wall. However, Peña Nieto insisted he told Trump Mexico won’t pay for the wall.
Trump called the meeting “substantive, direct and constructive,” said ABC News. In Arizona, he described the meeting by saying he and Peña Nieto “agreed on the importance of ending the illegal flow of drugs, cash, guns and people across our border and to put the cartels out of business.”
Trump continued, “We also discussed the great contributions of Mexican American citizens to our two countries, my love for the people of Mexico and the leadership and friendship that we have between Mexico and the United States.”
Reuters says the trip is Trump’s second overseas as a presidential candidate, noting that the real estate magnate traveled to his Scottish golf courses in June after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
The Mexican president has previously had harsh words for Trump. As NPR put it, “Pena Nieto has been hotly critical of Trump’s rhetoric, likening him to Mussolini and Hitler earlier this year.” NPR said logistics and security concerns were concerns.
In June, Peña Nieto “warned of the dangers of populism in a globalized world and defended comments likening Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini,” said Reuters. In turn, Trump has said of Mexico, “They are not our friend, believe me,” said The New York Times, among other controversial comments, such as saying some Mexican immigrants are rapists.
Trump and former Mexican President Vicente Fox were already in a war of words ahead of the visit:
CNN says Peña Nieto has also “repeatedly asserted that his country will not pay for the border wall Trump plans to build on the border between their two countries.”
However, after the actual meeting, Peña Nieto said the border should be transformed into an “asset.”
2. Trump Later Gave a Major Immigration Speech in Arizona Railing Against Open Borders
In an immigration speech hours after the meeting, Trump railed against open borders, pledged to make the country better for American citizens, and discussed illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, said ABC News.
“The truth is our immigration system is worse than anybody ever realized,” Trump said. “But the facts aren’t known because the media won’t report on them, the politicians won’t talk about them and the special interests spend a lot of money trying to cover them up because they are making an absolute fortune. That’s the way it is.”
He also said, “Immigration reform should mean something else entirely. It should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.”
He said that some who come here won’t be able to assimilate. “Countless Americans who have died in recent years would be alive today if not for the open border policies of this administration and the administration that causes this horrible, horrible thought process,” Trump said in Arizona. He said “Illegal immigrants and other non-citizens in our prisons and jails together had around 25,000 homicide arrests to their names. 25,000.”
He also doubled down on his plan to build a wall, saying, “We will build a great wall along the Southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall.”
Watch a full transcript of Trump’s immigration speech here.
The BBC says Trump attended a fundraiser in California, went to Mexico for the meeting, and then headed to Arizona for his major immigration speech.
In the speech itself, Trump called it a “detailed policy address” on illegal immigration.
In Mexico, Trump toned down his rhetoric and struck a more cooperative tone.
3. The Mexican President Invited Both Presidential Candidates but Only Trump Accepted so Far
The Washington Post says Peña Nieto invited Hillary Clinton for a meeting too, not just Trump.
The visit comes as Trump is trying to close the gap in national polling with Clinton. Clinton’s spokeswoman responded to news of the Trump meeting with Peña Nieto by telling NBC, “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.”
The Clinton campaign also said that Clinton is “is looking forward to talking with Peña Nieto again at the appropriate time,” said NBC, although the campaign did not specify when that is. She already met the Mexican president in 2014, said NBC.
4. Peña Nieto Said he Wanted the Meeting to ‘Protect Mexicans’
The BBC says that the Mexican president said “dialogue would help ‘protect Mexicans wherever they are.'”
On Twitter, the Mexican president wrote in Spanish, that “the dialogue” is designed “to promote the interests of Mexico in the world and, mainly, to protect” Mexicans wherever they are. He also wrote that he had invited the candidates to “discuss bilateral relations.”
5. The Mexican President’s Popularity Is Low & Some Are Criticizing the Visit
According to Reuters, Peña Nieto’s “popularity has slumped to all-time lows, and opposition politicians reacted with dismay” to the meeting with Trump, with one saying, “Be part of the campaign of a candidate dedicated to insulting us? Why?”
Those opposed to the visit were using the hashtag #TrumpNotWelcome. The criticism of the meeting was heated under that hashtag. One man wrote, “It is completely outrageous and ridiculous” and called the Mexican president a puppet. A woman wrote, “As a Mexican, I don’t want an apology from #Trump. What I demand is better judgement from my President. #TrumpNotWelcome.”
The meeting is scheduled to occur in private, said NPR.
Peña Nieto is married to soap opera actress Angelica Rivera, his second wife. They’ve both been the subject of scandal.