Trump's immigration stance resonates at rallies

2016-03-21 13:19
(Jim Cole, AP)

(Jim Cole, AP)

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Tucson - Donald Trump's campaign in Arizona is centered on his hard line against illegal immigration, a stand that supporters embraced in a series of tense rallies ahead of Tuesday's presidential primary in the border state.

"Illegal immigration is gonna stop," Trump said in Tucson on Saturday. "It's dangerous," he said. "Terrible."

Both in Phoenix and Tucson, Trump was introduced by former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who pushed tough immigration laws in office and Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County sheriff who made his name by chasing down people who are in the country illegally. The county includes Phoenix and nearly two-thirds of Arizona's population.

Contested convention

Protesters showed up at every event.  They blocked the main road in Phoenix into his outdoor rally for several hours before it started. In Tucson, they interrupted him and some were tossed from the event.

Police said earlier that about half a dozen people were arrested at the Arizona rallies, including two on misdemeanor charges of assault. It was not clear how many were protesters or Trump supporters.

Trump was campaigning in Arizona ahead of Tuesday's primary in which the winner will take all 58 delegates at stake.

Trump's main rivals, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, are desperately trying to prevent the real estate mogul from accumulating the 1 237 delegates needed to secure the nomination at the party's national convention in July. They are hoping for a contested convention in which delegates would be free to turn from Trump if he fails to win a majority on the first ballot. Trump has won 678 delegates in contests held thus far, according to an AP count. Cruz is in second place with 423 delegates and Kasich is in third with 143.

Mocking tone

His rivals hope to offset a likely Trump win in Arizona on Tuesday with a strong showing in the Utah caucuses. Limited polling shows Cruz leading in the state where Mormons account for two-thirds of the state's 3 million residents. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and the Mormon faith's most visible member, said he intended to vote for Cruz in the caucuses, but stopped short of endorsing the Texas senator, an uncompromising conservative.

However, Utah's delegates will be distributed proportionally based on the percentage of votes - unless a candidate gets more than 50% - which would give that person all 40 delegates.

In Arizona, Trump treated the latest protests with a mix of pacifist rhetoric and a mocking tone. "We love our protesters, don't we?" he asked. As security removed one or more, he said: "We want to do it with love," then added bitingly, "Get 'em outta here."

Arizona Democrats also vote on Tuesday and contender Bernie Sanders campaigned Saturday at the US-Mexico border in Nogales.

Standing in front of a tall, steel fence that divides the two countries, the Vermont senator promised to keep immigrant families together by taking more steps than President Barack Obama has done to protect many from deportation. Sanders called Arpaio a bully and he bemoaned the "divisive, bigoted and xenophobic comments of people like Donald Trump."

Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife in Arizona on Sunday and Hillary Clinton planned rallies in the state on Monday.

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