DALLAS (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is renewing his campaign against illegal immigration, telling a cheering crowd of thousands in Dallas that "it's disgusting what's happening to our country."
Trump's continued harsh statements on immigration come despite calls from GOP officials to tone down his rhetoric on the sensitive issue.
He told the crowd at the American Airlines Center Monday that the United States is "a dumping ground for the rest of the world." And he promised Republican leaders he's just getting started.
The GOP front-runner decried "anchor babies" and gang members among the immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, drawing huge ovations from a rowdy audience. The 20,000-capacity venue was at least three-quarters full for the evening rally.
"You people are suffering," Trump told the Texans. "I'm in New York, but they're in New York, too. They're all over the place."
Provocative rhetoric on immigration has defined Trump's presidential campaign from the very beginning, when the billionaire businessman called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals in his June announcement speech. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, among others, has encouraged Trump to soften his tone, yet the former reality television star has refused.
The strategy may play well among the GOP's more conservative voters — those who filled the Dallas sports arena among them — yet threatens to hurt the party's standing among a growing group of Hispanic voters in the general election.
Trump's popularity within his party has kept growing. He holds a commanding lead in early polls.
"This is a movement that's happening," he declared, confronting critics who think he's not running a serious campaign. "Now it's time to really start, because this is going to happen. I'm telling you, I'm not going anywhere."
"Unless I win, it's been a waste of time for me, folks," he continued.
Monday night's crowd ate it up.
They waved miniature American flags, munched nachos and drank $13 cups of beer from plastic cups as they interrupted Trump repeatedly with applause.
"Sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth, just like everybody," said Barbara Tomasino, a 65-year-old retired elementary school librarian from Plano, Texas, who donned a dress, shoes and a purse plastered with pictures of Trump's face. "If he gets elected, he might need to tone it down a little bit."
Still, the crowd cheered wildly when Trump bashed immigrants in the country illegally, the media, Republican operatives such as Karl Rove, and the energy levels of his rivals.
"I have tremendous energy," Trump said. "Tremendous. To a point where it's almost ridiculous if you think about it."