Mexico would not be have to pay upfront for a border wall with the United States, and could fund its construction by levying charges from travellers at the crossing point, an economic adviser to Donald Trump said yesterday (Thursday).
The proposal by Peter Navarro came as the Republican presidential candidate prompted a renewed furore over his immigration policy, with a speech that called for the immediate deportation of millions of undocumented workers and reignited his row with the Mexican government over border controls.
"There's a very simple way for Mexico to pay for the wall," said Mr Navarro, an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of California (Irvine). "We set up the borders, we control immigration, you levy a charge to come into the country."
In a speech delivered in Arizona hours after the Republican presidential candidate met Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico's president, Mr Trump called for a task force to be created to deport unwanted immigrants. "Day 1, my first hour in office, those people are gone," he shouted. "They're gone."
Mr Trump has dropped his initial call to remove an estimated 11 million undocumented migrants, focusing instead on those with criminal records. Recent studies estimate there are fewer than 160,000 undocumented immigrants with criminal records in the US. But Mr Trump put the number of people he would deport at around two million, suggesting he is including individuals who have committed minor misdemeanours such as speeding.
The speech caused outrage in America's Hispanic community, prompting some major Latino supporters of Mr Trump to revoke their endorsements for the presidential nominee.
Jacob Monty, a member of Trump's National Hispanic Advisory Council and aggressive supporter of Mr Trump, resigned his position and promised to stop fundraising for the candidate. "I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately," the Texas attorney said. "What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate."
Mr Trump's decision to double down on his base with his hardline immigration speech came as a poll showed him jumping ahead of Hillary Clinton in the national polls. The presidential candidate had fallen behind his Democratic rival, with some analysts predicting a landslide victory for Mrs Clinton. The poll by Right-leaning Rasmussen Reports put Mr Trump one point ahead of Mrs Clinton with 40 per cent support.
Mr Trump had earlier on Wednesday made his first diplomatic overture, visiting Mr Pena Nieto in Mexico in a strategy seen by many as an shift by the real estate mogul from a hardline immigration stance to a softer, more pragmatic, approach as he worked to capture votes from America's centre Right.
But the aftermath of the meeting turned sour as Mr Pena Nieto contradicted the Republican's claim that they had not discussed paying for the wall, saying he had flatly told Mr Trump that Mexico "would not pay for the wall".
Doris Meissner, of the Migration Policy Institute, cast doubt on Mr Navarro's border tax, saying a huge number of people make the crossing daily for work and would not be able to afford it.