Saturday, July 11, 2015 | 1:21 p.m.
Donald Trump brought his controversial presidential campaign to Las Vegas today, doubling down on inflammatory immigration rhetoric that has generated headlines since he announced his bid last month.
Trump stayed away from specifically calling undocumented immigrants from Mexico “rapists” and “criminals” as he had in prior speeches, but he associated them with violent crimes and other ills affecting America.
“We have to stop illegal immigrants from coming into the country,” the real estate mogul and “Apprentice” boss said. “(Mexico) is smart. They’re sending us their problems.”
Following a news conference in Los Angeles Friday night where Trump appeared with families who were affected by violence by undocumented immigrants, Trump turned over the stage during his speech today to Jamiel Shaw. Shaw’s son was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant while walking home from the mall in 2008.
“His son would be alive today if we knew what we were doing,” Trump said.
His speech came at Freedom Fest, a conservative gathering being held at Planet Hollywood, to a crowd of several hundred people. Trump set off from Las Vegas shortly after his speech ended to attend a campaign rally in Phoenix that is expected to draw as many as 10,000 people.
His presence at the libertarian-oriented conference in Las Vegas was billed by the event’s emcee as the “perhaps the most controversial” speaker in Freedom Fest’s history.
Many attendees felt Trumps political views, especially on issues such as immigration and foreign policy, don’t align with libertarian ideology.
“There’s room for lots of people in the Libertarian tent,” said Linda Rawles, an Arizona resident who carried a sign reading “Trump is no Libertarian.” “I want people to know he doesn’t speak for libertarian philosophies. I’m confused about why he’s here.”
Trump’s speech also drew liberal activists who gathered outside the casino to protest his immigration views.
Despite the controversy, Trump boldly predicted that he’ll win the Hispanic vote if he becomes the Republican nominee because of his focus on creating jobs.
During a nearly hourlong speech, Trump meandered from topic to topic, discussing his recently severed relationships with Univision and NBC, as well as his wealth and the media frenzy his campaign has spawned. At one point, he was joined on stage by his friend Phil Ruffin, owner of Treasure Island and a partner in Trump’s Las Vegas hotel.
He took shots at fellow presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, as well as President Barack Obama, whom Trump called divisive.
Trump closed his speech on the theme he said he’s building his campaign around: “Make America great again.”
“The American Dream is dead,” he said. “But I’m going to make it bigger and better and stronger than before.”