Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
LAREDO — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump still made his way to the Texas-Mexico border on Thursday, even though a Border Patrol union here backed out of hosting him.
Speaking with reporters at Laredo International Airport amid loud chants of "Dump Trump," the candidate suggested he had an obligation to tour the border.
"They say it's a great danger, but I have to do it," Trump said after a reporter asked if he was worried about his safety on the trip. "I have to do it."
Trump then headed to the border, where he apparently met with law enforcement officials in a building overlooking a highway filled with trucks waiting to enter the United States. Outside the building, he held court with a crush of reporters, offering few specifics about how he would deal with the issue that brought him here — illegal immigration.
He did, however, offer a string of bold pronouncements, including that he would not only win the GOP nomination but go on to win the Hispanic vote. He predicted he could easily beat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the general election, calling her the worst secretary of state in U.S. history. And he did not back down from any of his previous controversial comments on immigration, accusing the media of misconstruing them and swearing that Latinos have no beef with him.
Local 2455, the Border Patrol union that originally intended to host Trump on his trip, announced early Thursday it would "pull out of all events involving Donald Trump," citing discussions with its national organization. For a time, that announcement seemed to throw into question Trump's plan to tour the border.
"Just to be clear, an endorsement was never discussed for any presidential candidate," the union said, reiterating it does not endorse candidates.
Trump, the bombastic billionaire whose candidacy has rattled the 2016 race, said Thursday on Fox News he had been invited to Laredo by "border patrols and they want to honor me."
Asked about the union's decision, a Trump spokeswoman said the candidate was "still going" to the border. Later Thursday morning on Twitter, Trump said he still planned to make it to Laredo on time.
"Getting ready to lift off for Laredo," Trump wrote. "Will land at 1:OO P.M. Should be exciting and informative!"
Trump's campaign followed up the tweet with a statement from him saying the local Border Patrol agents had been "totally silenced directly from superiors in Washington who do not want people to know how bad it is on the border — every bit as bad as Mr. Trump has been saying." The statement confirmed Trump was still making the trip, "despite the great danger."
As Trump flew to Laredo, former Gov. Rick Perry opened a new front in his war of words with the real estate mogul, pouncing on reports that people working on some of Trump's properties are in the country illegally.
"As a known employer of illegal immigrant labor, Donald Trump’s record on border security is non-existent at best and a farce at worst," Perry said in a statement. "It’s going to take more than a day trip for him to convince the American people he is anything but a hypocrite when it comes to border security."
At the Laredo airport, Trump took a fresh shot at Perry, saying the former Texas governor was "following my lead" in bringing up border security on the campaign trail.