The controversial Republican presidential hopeful, real estate magnate Donald Trump, in a short visit to the South Texas border city of Laredo on Thursday insisted on the need for a wall, albeit only along "certain sections" of the lengthy U.S.-Mexican frontier.
Prior to his visit, there had been much anticipation over what the outspoken tycoon might say when he set foot in Laredo, where 95.6 percent of the population is Hispanic, particularly after his recent controversial comments on immigration, Mexico and Mexican migrants.
However, Trump merely repeated in a softer tone what he had already stated: that Mexico is sending its criminals to the United States and that it is necessary to build a wall separating the two nations to keep out illegal migrants.
A wall along the border would save the country a great deal of money, said Trump, who is leading the pack of Republican presidential hopefuls with 24 percent, according to the latest polls.
The candidate was invited to Laredo by a Border Patrol union, which at the last minute withdrew its invitation due to discrepancies with the organization's national leadership, but Trump decided to visit the city anyway, despite the disagreement.
Trump's campaign made a statement saying that the union had withdrawn its offer because its leaders "were totally silenced directly from superiors in Washington who do not want people to know how bad it is on the border - every bit as bad as Mr. Trump has been saying."
"They are being silenced, and are very unhappy about it, as told directly to Mr. Trump," the campaign added.
Trump, meanwhile, visited the bridge over the Rio Grande instead of accompanying Border Patrol agents on a tour of border facilities, as had been originally scheduled.
At a press conference, the magnate said once again - just as he had in his campaign announcement speech on June 16 - that many Mexican immigrants are "drug traffickers" and "rapists."
He did not offer any details about how he intends to deal with the overall problem of illegal immigration, although he said it constitutes a "great danger" to the country.
Wearing a white baseball cap saying "Make America Great Again," Trump - at the press conference - said that he felt warmly welcomed in the city by Democratic Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, and others, and did not hear anybody protesting his presence.
"I think I will win the Hispanic vote," Trump declared. "I employ thousands and thousands of Hispanics. I love the people. They're great workers. They're fantastic people and they want legal immigration."
Trump's apparent confidence in appealing to Latinos at the polls, or at least in the voter surveys, comes after a recent Univision survey found that 79 percent of the Latino community disapproves of him and his comments.
The magnate also said on his two-and-a-half-hour visit to Laredo that he is a Republican and hopes to run as a member of that party, although he did not rule out running an independent campaign for president.