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LAS VEGAS — Republican Donald Trump declared his presidential bid Tuesday by accusing Mexico of sending people bringing drugs, criminals and rapists, promising to build a Great Wall on the nation's southern border and vowing to end the president's immigration executive action.
Trump, real estate magnate and reality TV star, painted a picture of an out-of-control border that he said border guards are describing to him. He said the people coming to the U.S. are not just from Mexico "but all over South and Latin America" and "probably from the Middle East."
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems," Trump said in a speech at Trump Tower in New York. "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're telling us what we're getting."
He seemed to also criticize the people responsible for guarding the border, saying the types of people he described are coming because "we have no protection and no competence."
"I would build a Great Wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall, mark my words," said Trump, known for the buildings and facilities bearing his name and for his television show "The Apprentice."
He added that he would immediately end Obama's executive action on immigration that would shield millions of immigrants here illegally from deportation and allow them to work but are stalled in court. Immigrants who would qualify would have to have been here at least five years or arrived in the country as children.
"It appears Mr. Trump is having a difficult time separating fact from fiction. Developing a sound foreign policy with the United States’ most important trade partner and neighbor is not a reality TV show," said Arturo Vargas, executive director for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. The group's is holding its annual conference this week in Las Vegas where three presidential candidates are expected to address immigration and other issues important to the Latino community.
Immigration has become a key issue of the 2016 presidential campaigns in large part because of the Latino vote, which is considered critical to winning the White House.
While most of the Republican presidential hopefuls have opposed Obama's executive action, a few have been promising immigration reform with at least legal status for those already here. Democrats have pledged a path to citizenship and have supported Obama's programs.
Immigration activists and some Latino groups have dogged candidates to take a stand in support of Obama's executive action and immigration reform. But also key are votes from conservatives who consider the executive action and providing any legal status to people in the country illegally to be "amnesty" and who want far tighter border controls.