LAREDO, Texas — Donald Trump ran to the border in a whirlwind two-hour trip Thursday, and in quick succession, he managed to slam Washington officials, fellow GOP candidates, the press and anyone who thought he should apologize for remarks made about illegal immigrants.

He also predicted he will win the Republican presidential nomination and the Hispanic vote.

Even before he hit the tarmac at Laredo International Airport, Trump characterized his visit to the border as a dangerous undertaking because of crime associated with illegal immigration.

“There’s great danger with illegals,” he said upon arriving. “People are saying, ‘It’s so dangerous what you’re doing, Mr. Trump, it’s so dangerous what you’re doing.’ ”

But, he added, “I have to do it. I love the country.”

On Fox News, just before flying south, Trump said: “I may never see you again.” The crime rate in Laredo is actually lower than in Trump’s hometown of New York and most other major U.S. cities.

The real-estate mogul’s visit follows weeks in which Trump has risen to the top of polls of GOP voters nationwide but caused alarm — and indignation — among Republican leaders. His comments about Mexicans and Mexican immigrants, and his attack on Sen. John McCain’s war record, have dominated campaign news in recent weeks.

Few analysts take his rise seriously. But Trump, wearing a white baseball cap with his campaign logo, traveled as if he were already in a presidential motorcade.

He was rushed through the town as dozens of police vehicles closed highways and international crossings as the entourage — including six Cadillac Escalades and two buses for more than 100 media — accompanied him to the Laredo International Trade Bridge.

He met with Mayor Pete Saenz and City Manager Jesus Olivares, who expressed disagreement with the GOP front-runner over the need for a fence along the entire 2,000-mile border. On immigration questions, Olivares demurred and said the city has a great working relationship with its federal partners.

Not so for Trump.

He was initially invited to tour the region by a local union of border patrol agents, but they bowed out Thursday after concerns were raised about the appearance of a political endorsement.

Trump said it was Washington officials who put the kibosh on the tour.

“The Border Patrol is petrified of saying what’s happening because they have a real problem here,” Trump said.

Trump said the other GOP candidates are now seeing how important the issue is to voters and are scrambling to catch up with him.

“I’m the one who brought up the problem of illegal immigration,” he said. “I took a lot of heat the first week and then the second week everybody realized I was right.”

He continued his war or words with GOP rival Rick Perry, who has called on him to drop out of the race because of his bombastic and offensive statements.

“Rick Perry did a terrible job as the governor of Texas,” Trump said. “The border security was terrible.”

Perry countered that as governor he spent more than $1 billion in state resources on border security to do what he said the federal government had failed to do.

Perry also referred Thursday to news stories that show Trump’s properties hiring laborers who 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 written 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.”

Trump told reporters that he would secure the border, though he was vague about how. He said it’s important to make legal immigration work.

“You have to make the people that come in, you have to make them legal,” he said.

He seemed to revise his call for border-length wall, saying Thursday that it would be needed “in certain sections. The wall will save a tremendous amount of money.”

When asked several times about whether he needs to apologize to Hispanics, Trump said that the problem was “a typical case of the press with misinterpretation.”

He cited a recent Nevada poll that showed him in the lead and doing well among Hispanic voters.

He also pointed out that “there were a lot of people at the airport waving American flags,” and cheering him on.

But many of the 50 or 60 people who showed up at the airport to greet him were opposed to the candidate, and held up signs that said, “Dump Trump.”