Trump crowd was wild for anti-undocumented rhetoric on the first night of the RNC

The World
A delegate holds a sign during first-night speeches at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

A delegate holds a sign during first-night speeches at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

In retrospect, the first night of the Republican National Convention felt like a litany of the terrors of illegal immigration and radical Islamism.

Those two topics, plus regular bashing of Hillary Clinton, were met with roars and ovations from the mostly white crowd at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.

"None of this is hateful," said Italian American actor Antonio Sabàto Jr., as he told the crowd his faith had moved him to get involved in this election, and denounced undocumented immigrants for not following the law like he did.

The Trump campaign made sure to pepper the speaker list with those who have grievances against the undocumented: Sabàto was followed by three "victims of illegal immigrants," all parents of children who were killed by undocumented perpetrators.

And those speakers made sure to draw a hard distinction between law-abiding immigrants to the United States and people who cross the border illegally or overstay visas.

Sabine Durden, a German immigrant, said, "My best friend, my rock, my son Dominic — my only child — was also killed by an illegal immigrant. ... I call them illegal aliens."

She stressed this last word to loud cheers from the crowd, which seemed to relish the lines designed to alienate groups.

Marco Gutierrez, a Mexican immigrant who supports Trump, says attending the RNC has given him a new perspective on how Trump's core supporters view immigration.

"I feel a more profound understanding of that consensus of the base, of how Republicans feel about illegal immigration," he says. "I have family that are illegals ... obviously there's some feelings there, but this is all about — it's a common welfare but we're America first."

Gutierrez says the atmosphere did feel aggressive during Monday night's immigration speeches, but he hasn't changed his mind about Trump.

"I feel it's healthy, I feel it'll help the other side [Democrats and undocumented immigrants] see what the base feels like," Gutierrez said. "If that's how they feel, we need to put the issue on the table and talk about it."

Gutierrez's parents migrated during the Reagan administration's amnesty period and worked on farms. Gutierrez himself came to the United States legally four years later.