Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign while battling critics of his approach, will travel to the U.S. border with Mexico on Thursday, his campaign said.
In a statement, the campaign said Trump will meet with members of the National Border Patrol Council in Laredo, Texas, and then tour the border. He’s also expected to meet with law enforcement including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.
Mentioning the visit during an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Trump said local officials wanted him to come.
“I’ve been invited by the Border Patrol and they want to honor me actually, thousands and thousands of them because I’m speaking up,” he said. “They called me, they want to honor me.”
Highlighting potential security concerns, Trump added, “I may never see you again but we’re going to do it.”
Trump has come under fire for accusing Mexico of sending illegal immigrant "rapists" and other violent criminals across the U.S. border. He has stood by those remarks, though, and continued to press for increased immigration and border enforcement -- particularly after a young woman was killed in San Francisco, allegedly by an illegal immigrant.
“We can open up the legal process and make it go faster, [but] you can’t have people just pouring into the country,” Trump said Tuesday at a rally in South Carolina.
In the same speech, Trump also went after Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., criticizing his handling of the border. “John McCain, you got to remember this, is about open borders.”
Trump also has criticized former Texas governor and fellow Republican candidate Rick Perry. He went after his record in a Tweet Tuesday, saying: “[He] did an absolutely horrible job of securing the border. He should be ashamed of himself.”
The trip comes as Trump also faces bipartisan criticism for questioning McCain's "war hero" reputation. Trump said over the weekend that McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, is considered a war hero because he got captured.
FoxNews.com's Christopher Snyder contributed to this report.