But amid the hardline bluster, Trump didn't repeat his previous commitment to round up and deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States -- focusing instead on a narrower subset who have committed crimes within the country, and pointedly insisting those already here will have no path to citizenship.
In his highly anticipated speech in Phoenix, Trump embraced a hardline conservative position -- painting a bleak picture of the impact of immigration, rallying the Republican base and defending his signature proposal: a wall on the US-Mexico border. But the speech might have done little to appeal to the broader electorate -- especially suburban white voters who could be crucial on Election Day.
"Anyone who is in the United States illegally is subject to deportation."
Trump repeatedly emphasized that his first focus would be deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes in the United States.
But the big question entering Wednesday night's speech was whether he'd stand by his calls for mass deportations -- including families that hadn't violated additional laws.
This was Trump's way of blurring the lines and shifting to a conventional hardline stance more consistent with his party's leaders on Capitol Hill. He suggested that undocumented immigrants who are caught will be deported -- with no exceptions -- but didn't directly call for actions that would lead to the mass deportations of all 11 million in the country. Instead, he made clear that their legal status would not change under his presidency.
"For those here illegally today who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only. To return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined today," the Republican presidential nominee said.
"Mexico will pay for the wall. 100%. They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for the wall."
Trump traveled to Mexico City and met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto earlier Wednesday -- but the two wound up telling different stories about their meeting. Trump told reporters they didn't discuss who would pay for the border wall he's proposing; Nieto tweeted that he told Trump Mexico wouldn't foot the bill.
It was clear Trump was trying to avoid attacking Mexicans generally, and keep his focus on undocumented immigrants. But he wasn't backing away from the proposal that has animated his campaign.
"They're great people, and great leaders," he said of Mexicans during his Phoenix speech, "but they're going to pay for the wall."
"Maybe they'll be able to deport her."
Trump's rhetoric would have fit right into the Republican primary. His speech was red meat for the GOP base -- exemplified by this joking suggestion that immigration officials boot Democratic rival Hillary Clinton from the country.
"It's our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us."
By asserting authority to pick and choose immigrants, Trump was defending some of his most controversial campaign proposals -- including a ban on Muslims, which he called for and has not yet disavowed, and a more targeted restriction on immigrants from countries that don't satisfy his vetting requirements.
"Within ICE I'm going to create a new special deportation task force."
Trump had previously called for a "deportation force." He wasn't backing away from that terminology on Wednesday night.
However, again, Trump shifted his emphasis -- saying those officers would work with local and state law enforcement officials to round up criminals immediately, rather than suggesting they'd boot all undocumented immigrants, regardless of their actions within the United States.
"If we can save American lives, American jobs and American futures, together we can save America itself."
Immigration has long been Trump's signature issue -- and he used the speech to pitch it as the most important one in 2016's presidential election, too.
He brought the parents of Americans slain by undocumented immigrants onto the stage, asking them to briefly tell their stories. And he cast immigrants as a primary reason workers -- including African-Americans and Latinos -- have struggled to find jobs.
"Anyone who tells you the core issue is the needs of those living here illegally has simply spent too much time in Washington."
Trump's calculation is that he needs the blue-collar worker in Ohio or Pennsylvania much more than the new Latino voter in Colorado or Arizona.
He made clear that he isn't concerned about the human impact of deporting undocumented immigrants -- including so-called "Dreamers," or those who were brought into the United States as children. Trump insisted he'd revoke President Barack Obama's executive actions allowing those immigrants to remain in the country.