Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared "Mexico is booming" during an unconventional press conference Thursday near the U.S.-Mexico border. "I don’t know if that’s good for the United States, but it’s good for Mexico," he continued.
Wearing a white baseball hat emblazoned with his campaign slogan "Make America Great Again," and flanked by officials from Laredo, Texas, the controversial GOP front-runner reiterated that he maintains a positive relationship with Latinos and that he will continue to make fighting illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign.
"I think I’ll win the Hispanic vote," Trump insisted. "Over the years, thousands and thousands of Hispanics have worked for me and now work for me, and the relationship is very good."
Trump made the trip to the border to highlight his contention that the U.S. is being manipulated by the government of Mexico, which he claims has sent drug dealers and "rapists" into America illegally. Trump had planned to have a meet-and-greet with members of the U.S. Border Patrol, but the plan was scrapped earlier on Thursday. "The Border Patrol invited me, but then they canceled because frankly they didn’t want to get involved," Trump said. "I heard they got those orders from Washington."
He had previously faulted the Border Patrol's union for canceling the photo op. "It is unfortunate the local union of Border Patrol Agents received pressure at a national level not to participate and ultimately pulled out of today's event. They are being silenced, and are very unhappy about it, as told directly to Mr. Trump," his campaign said in a statement on Thursday.
The real-estate mogul boasted about his front-runner status in primary states like Nevada, and said he was "way, way ahead with the Hispanics," in match-ups against his GOP rivals. Trump also bragged that he was the most formidable opponent of likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whom he called "the worst secretary of state in the history of our country."
"She’s going to be beat, and I’m the one who’s going to beat her," Trump said.
Trump said he felt a lot of "great warmth" from the predominately Latino community of Laredo when he arrived. "They were all waving American flags and they were all in favor of Trump and what I'm doing," he told reporters.
Still, his press conference had a few wrinkles. When asked about Trump's proposal that a massive wall along the border needs to be built to prevent illegal immigration, the city manager of Laredo, Jesus Olivares, politely disagreed.
"We don't think that's necessary at this time. I think there are other ways we can work together with the federal government," said Olivares. "The relationship that the city of Laredo has with the federal government and all the law enforcement agencies is a tremendous one." Trump didn't back down, saying there are "areas where you have to have the wall," and he claimed that it would save a "tremendous amount of money."
Trump also addressed rumors that he may launch a third-party campaign for president if he fails to win the 2016 Republican nomination. "Look, I'm a Republican, I'm a conservative. I'm running. I'm in first place, by a lot, it seems, according to all the polls. I wanna run as a Republican. I think I'll get the nomination, we'll see, soon enough, but I think I'll get the nomination," Trump said. "The best way to win is for me to get the nomination and to run probably against Hillary."