By Jennie Matthew
Donald Trump has toured the Texas-Mexico border to condemn illegal immigration, declare his love for Latinos and belittle rival White House candidate Hillary Clinton.
The real estate mogul, who is well ahead of his Republican rivals in most polls, is running an aggressive campaign for US president.
He flew into the border town of Laredo on Friday (local time) in a private jet emblazoned with his name, keeping the harsh sunshine at bay with a white baseball hat with his slogan Make America Great Again.
"There's nothing more important than what I'm doing," the former reality TV star said on arrival, calling illegal immigration "a tremendous problem".
The 69-year-old multi-billionaire caused widespread outrage last month when he accused illegal immigrants from Mexico of importing crime, rape and drugs into the United States.
Thursday's visit was "dangerous", he claimed repeatedly.
"We have a tremendous danger on the border with the illegals coming in," he told a news conference, agreeing to a remark from the crowd that "killers come from all over the world".
But when it came to the Latino community in general, Trump said he was in love. Laredo's population is 95.6 percent Hispanic or Latino.
"I employ thousands and thousands of Hispanics," he said. "I love the people. They're great workers. They're fantastic people and they want legal immigration."
He said he had been "surprised" by how warmly he was received despite spending barely two hours on the ground. Laredo officials appeared delighted to have a celebrity in their midst.
"It's a pleasure," said Laredo mayor Pete Saenz. "The excitement that he brings is also very on the plus side for our city."
But not everyone was happy. The League of United Latin American Citizens staged a protest.
The border patrol union, who initially invited Trump, announced a boycott at the eleventh hour following what it called "careful consideration of all the factors involved".
But the local branch of the National Border Patrol Council said it "does not endorse candidates for any political office".
"Make no mistake, our border with Mexico is not secure and there's no doubt that we need to have an honest discussion about that," it added.
An unfazed Trump claimed the union had been silenced by bosses in Washington.
"They're petrified and afraid of saying what's happening," he said.
"They have a real problem here ... they invited me and then all of a sudden they were told 'silencio'."
Bolstered by success in a string of polls, Trump said he would win the Republican nomination and took swipe at Clinton, the Democrat contender who enjoys the most approval of any candidate.
"Easily, she's the worst secretary of state in the history of our country. She's going to be beaten and I'm the one to beat her," Trump said.
The tycoon has hogged the headlines with outlandish remarks and media stunts, lampooning rivals, insulting career politicians and castigating illegal immigrants.
Companies such as Macy's, Univision and NBC have cut ties with Trump but the mogul has refused to tone down his rhetoric.