PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. (CN) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump renewed his pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border – and make Mexico pay for it – before thousands of Arizona supporters Tuesday, ahead of the first vice presidential debate.
“I want to send our best wishes to our great Gov. Mike Pence as he prepares for the debate tonight,” Trump said.
In his speech, Trump focused on securing the border and vetting Muslim refugees who enter the United States.
“We’re going to build the wall. Mexico’s going to pay for the wall,” Trump said.
He went on to thank former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for their support of his campaign. Both addressed the crowd prior to Trump’s remarks.
“He’s a truth-teller, just like me,” Brewer said. “He’s not afraid to call a radical Islamic terrorist a radical Islamic terrorist.”
Under Brewer’s leadership, the controversial immigration bill SB 1070 was passed in 2010. Arpaio supported the bill and used it to crack down on undocumented immigrants in his jurisdiction. But some say the law encourages police to use racial profiling.
“When I am president of this country, we are getting them out and we are getting them out quick,” Trump said of undocumented immigrants.
Trump named several victims killed by undocumented immigrants and criminal cartels.
“Nobody knows that better than the people in Arizona,” Trump said. “Nobody.”
Annette Lasurdo, a Prescott resident, said securing the border is a top priority for her.
“I think people should be coming here legally,” Lasurdo said. “I’m not necessarily for a wall, but I really think stricter border security is necessary, not just for Latinos but terrorists – anybody coming to this country.”
Lasurdo said Trump isn’t her ideal candidate, but she would rather vote for him than see a Hillary Clinton presidency.
“Hillary’s been around too long,” Lasurdo said. “I feel that we need change in this country.”
For Lasurdo, Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” points back to the Ronald Reagan era.
“Reagan did a really good job of pulling the country out of a bad situation and turning it into a prosperous era,” Lasurdo said. “I’m looking back at the 1980s and early 90s.”
Trump repeated claims that Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration have failed to secure the border, create jobs and reform trade with China. He also promised to repeal the Affordable Care act – “Obamacare” – on his first day in office.
The crowd booed and chanted “Lock her up” whenever Trump mentioned Clinton’s name.
Tensions were high near a barricaded protest area outside the event center, where Trump supporters confronted about two dozen protesters. One man was approached by a police officer after he shouted obscenities, spit and poured his drink on the ground in front of the protesters.
Lifelong Prescott resident Skylynn Penrod was among the protesters at the rally.
“I’m against Donald Trump due to multiple issues,” Penrod said. “I know a lot of special-needs kids. What he has been doing is attacking people some call ‘lessers’. But they’re just people. There’s just something different about them, whether it’s skin color or gender or a special need. He’s not representing all people.”
Nohl Rosen, of Wickenburg, Arizona, was outside the event center waving a black and blue flag to support police there. He said Trump is the only candidate who supports police.
“There’s a war on police in this country and it’s going to take armed citizens to stand with them and to stand up to things like Black Lives Matter terrorists,” Rosen, who carried a pistol holstered to his calf, said.
He claimed the protesters were paid by the Clinton campaign to be there.
When asked about Trump’s tax returns – which the New York Times released over the weekend, Lasurdo and Rosen both said Trump only took advantage of legal loopholes.
“That’s what good businessmen do,” Lasurdo said “All over the country; all over the world.”
Security ejected several attendees who started a fistfight during Trump’s speech. It is unclear how or why the fight started. Another man fell ill and was walked out by medics.
Trump’s next campaign stop is Wednesday in Henderson, Nevada.
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