Arizona supporters praise Donald Trump at immigration rally

Rocky Granata is a former Bernie Sanders supporter who believes Donald Trump is more of a Democrat than Hillary Clinton is, and plans to vote for him. (Photo by Keerthi Vedantam/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Dressed in a floppy hat and her grandmother’s pearls, Loretta Spencer stood in a line that snaked around two buildings as people waited to get into the Donald Trump rally. She lost her salon business during the Obama presidency and switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party.

“My employees couldn’t continue to work on a commission business,” said Spencer, one of thousands of Donald Trump supporters who showed up Wednesday evening to hear him speak about immigration. “I actually think he can help people. These people need to go to work.”

Trump spoke in Phoenix hours after visiting Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who insisted he would not pay for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico border. The visit came as Trump continued to draw fire for his hard-line immigration stance, including controversies over whether he would follow through on deporting 11 million immigrants.

Supporters in Phoenix didn’t seem to worry whether Trump was changing his immigration policies.

Eric Smaltz, of Surprise, doesn’t believe Peña Nieto is completely opposed to building a wall. A self-described “unwilling nationalized Native American” and sign painter, Smaltz said Mexico owes the U.S. a border wall.

“I wish that everybody that comes to the United States are held to the same agreements,” Smaltz said. “And one of those is to abide by the Constitution of the United States.”

Jim Borasa, a self-employed general contractor in Scottsdale and a longtime Republican voter, considers the wall a realistic goal despite Peña Nieto’s claims.

Trump and Peña Nieto “agree that some sort of a wall or something should be done,” said Borasa as he watched protesters outside the Phoenix Convention Center. “I think it’s a blessing for both countries that they have engaged and started conversation on that, on a critical issue.”

Robert Clay, a Trump supporter who also wants a border wall, said he was the first person in line at the rally and traveled from Hereford, a small Arizona town near the border.

“We live in this sweet little town, but we all have to lock our doors,” Clay said.

Borasa, Smaltz and Spencer said Trump’s history as a successful businessman show he has the ability and credibility to build a wall.

“The man is a negotiator,” Smaltz said. “There’s one thing that tells the truth, and that’s time.”