CLEVELAND -- The opening night of the Republican National Convention delivered a salvo of grim scenarios and stories aimed at pulling the heartstrings of hardline Trump supporters against immigration and of muddling the lines between terrorism, gangs, crime, and Syrian refugees with immigration to the U.S.
The day's theme of "Make America Safe again" reaffirmed the immigration issue as a central focus of Donald Trump’s campaign.
A parent whose child was a victim of a crime committed by someone illegally in the country said we have an administration that cares more about “illegal aliens” than Americans.
Jamail Shaw Sr. told those assembled in the convention how his son was shot in 2008 by a gang member from Mexico who was not legally in the country. There were shouts from the audience of “Build the Wall.”
“The wall, build the wall,” Shaw responded. “Only Trump mentions Americans killed by illegals. Trump will put America first. Not crooked Hillary.”
Those lines and other similar speeches brought raucous and rowdy cheers from the crowd at the convention.
Woven into these stories were vignettes of immigrants who "did it right" such as actor and model Antonio Sabato Jr. and Donald Trump's wife, Melania Trump. Sabato, whose parents are from Europe and who attended Beverly Hills High School, said everyone should play the "rules" as he did. Mrs. Trump, who grew up in then communist Slovenia called American citizenship a "great privilege".
The night seemed to dispel any projections that Trump would use the RNC to present a more moderate image as he transitioned from the primary elections to a more general audience.
The remarks on immigration were criticized by immigration activists, including some in the Hillary Clinton campaign like Lorella Praeli.
At news conferences held by Republicans and Trump advisers, the campaign insists that what Trump is focusing on is the need for legal immigration. RNC Hispanic Media director Helen Aguirre Ferré said that despite his previous statements, Trump won't conduct a massive deportation but focus on removing criminals. However, the presumptive Republican candidate has not clearly rejected his original calls for a deportation force and to deport those in the country illegally but letting the "good ones" return. He has said he would not call his plans "mass deportation."
Inside the convention center, Carol de Carlo, an alternate delegate from Nevada, said she sees a lot of hope for the party because of Trump. De Carlo, who said her family was Spanish by way of Mexico and eventually migrated to California, doubted that his pledge to deport 11 million people in the country illegally would come to pass.
"If we had followed our own laws and our own rules, we wouldn't be in this situation we are today," she said. " My grandparents came here legally. There should be some kind of penalty, they are going to have to get together to hammer out a deal between Republicans and Democrats."
"There are a lot of illegal people here and it is not fair to the people here," she said.
Earlier in the day, Leonel Mejía, 34 of Stillwater, Minn., joined a smaller than expected crowd of protesters who marched to the Quicken Loans Arena where the convention is being staged to denounce the GOP candidate and his immigration proposals.
Mejía said he had traveled 12 hours the day on Sunday with Minnesota Immigrant Rights Committee (MIRAC) "to say no to the Trump agenda." Mejía, who is undocumented, said he had marched in the massive 2006 immigration protests that drew hundreds of demonstrators in major cities all over the country.
Then, he marched in fear that it might lead to his deportation. But Monday was different. "I'm not afraid," he said.
Sofia Flores, 18, had arrived Monday morning from Milwaukee to participate and wore a white shirt that read "Wisconsin is not Arizona." A citizen, she said she had joined immigration protests this year on behalf of her family members, some who are not documented.
"Trump himself comes from immigrants. He comes from immigrants who migrated to America," she said. "He's very ignorant ... for example, his stereotypes that Mexicans are criminals and rapists."