Trump: 'We Wouldn't Be Talking About Illegal Immigration If It Weren't for Me'

By Susan Jones | July 16, 2015 | 6:29 AM EDT

In this July 11, 2015, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

( - Donald Trump says he won't stop talking about immigration, even though Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo -- a recent prison escapee -- reportedly has threatened to make Trump "swallow" his words about Mexico dumping its worst citizens in America.

Sean Hannity asked Trump about the apparent threat on his life on Wednesday night:

"You know, what I'm bringing up is much more important than Donald Trump. My life -- you know, frankly, what I'm doing is so important for the country," the billionaire responded with his characteristic bluntness.

"First of all, I appreciate your question, the way you worded it, because the truth is, we wouldn't be talking about illegal immigration if it weren't for me. I brought it up. They hammered me, and then they found out they were wrong. And so many people have apologized to me over the last week because, you know, when I made my statement, they didn't read my statement. They read little pieces of my statement and tried to make me look bad."

(In announcing his run for the Republican presidential nomination last month, Trump said Mexico isn't sending its "best" people to the United States: "They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.")

On Wednesday, Trump said he's deliberately blaming Mexico for exporting its problem citizens to the  United States, rather than blaming the individuals who come here. "And they want us to take care of those people," he said about Mexico. "They want us to put those people in prisons because they don't want -- if you remember, many years ago, Cuba, Fidel Castro emptied his jails and sent them to us.

"Well, in a much more sophisticated way, that's what Mexico is doing also at the border so -- because they don't want the cost. The cost is tremendous. And then you look at what happened with the escape, it's a pretty sad state of affairs.

"So had I not brought immigration up and illegal immigration in particular, you wouldn't be talking about it right now. You wouldn't be asking me the question. And now all of the candidates are trying to jump on.

"But here's the problem. They're weak, and they don't understand what to do. And you have to build a wall and you have to have very, very strong people there, and you will be able to control it.

"And I had an idea recently. When they send illegals into our country, we charge Mexico $100,000 for every illegal that crosses that border because it's trouble.

"I want them to come in, let them be legal. They have to go through a process. And the Hispanics agree with me on that. Many -- I love the Mexican people, their spirit and everything else. But they agree. They've worked hard to become legal, and they don't like what's happening at the border where all of these illegals are flowing through."

In his interview with  Hannity, Trump also weighed in on the Iran nuclear deal ("the whole thing is a disgrace," he said); he promised to boost trade ("Nobody's going to do it like me."); He said he would make "respect"  the cornerstone of his foreign policy ("They have to respect you, Sean."); and he explained why people like him: "Believe me, I could turn this country around so fast, and people would love me for it. That is what they want. And that's why I'm leading in the polls, I think.")

For the record, the liberals at MSNBC's "Morning Joe spent the first fifteen minutes of Thursday's show trying to explain the allure of Donald Trump, a man who's "not going to be president," one of them said, but who, they admitted, is tapping into the frustration of both Democrats and Republicans. "People should stop underestimating Donald Trump's capacity to take this race," commentator Mark Halperin opined.)

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