Trump, pushing immigration plan, meets with family of woman killed in 2007

September 2, 2016 5:16 PM EDT

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By Emily Stephenson

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Donald Trump sought to sell Americans on his tough approach to immigration on Friday, meeting in Philadelphia with the family of a woman who was killed in a 2007 shooting that involved people who came to the United States illegally.

Trump this week unveiled a hardline immigration plan that emphasized deporting illegal immigrants who commit crimes. His plan was cheered by other immigration critics, but some Hispanic backers and moderate Republicans felt it lacked compassion toward millions of people in the United States illegally.

Trump often points to examples of people hurt by illegal immigrants to defend his tough positions, which include building a wall at the border with Mexico, though some studies have found immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes.

On Friday, he met with the family of Iofemi Hightower, who was 20 years old when she and two others were killed in a schoolyard in Newark, New Jersey.

At least one of the people convicted in the 2007 shootings was in the United States illegally, according to a New York Times report in 2010 about the trials. Another had likely entered the country illegally and later gained legal status, the paper said.

"These are people that shouldn't be in the country," Trump told reporters. "A lot of people don't even know, they have no idea the consequence of these people coming in."

Shalga Hightower, 55, Iofemi's mother, said her family endured seven years of legal trials, as well as a period of homelessness and job loss. Asked if she would be supporting Trump for president, she said yes.

Her son, Jamar Hightower, 26, said Trump was the only person paying attention to the problem of crimes committed by people living in the United States illegally.

"I feel as though this man is the only one that’s actually standing up to do something about it," Jamar Hightower said. "This is not a problem that just started. They’ve been here."

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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