Trump's Immigration 'Softening' Leaves a Mushy Mess

The candidate can't seem to choose between mass deportation and a path to legalization.



Lately Donald Trump has been trying to have it both ways on immigration, signaling that he has reconsidered his signature promise to deport 11 million people while denying that his position has changed. Trump's running mate and his campaign manager continued the contradictions in talk show appearances yesterday, seeking simultaneously to reassure conservatives attracted by his hard line on immigration and moderates turned off by it.

"Nothing has changed about Donald Trump's position on dealing with illegal immigration," Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential candidate, implausibly declared on CNN's State of the Union. Pence's assertion was hard to reconcile with the video clip that the show's host, Jake Tapper, had just played. "There certainly can be a softening," Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity last Tuesday, "because we are not looking to hurt people. We want people. We have some great people in this country. We have some great, great people in this country." In another interview with Hannity the next day, Trump elaborated on the reason for that softening:

When I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I've had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they've said, "Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who's been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it's so tough, Mr. Trump." I have it all the time! It's a very, very hard thing.

During the same interview, Trump suggested he was open to legalizing unauthorized immigrants. Although there would be "no citizenship" and "no amnesty as such," he said, if they "pay back taxes" he would be willing to "work with them."

Yet according to Pence, who said Trump has been "absolutely consistent" on immigration, "there will be no path to legalization, no path to citizenship unless people leave the country." Asked if Trump still plans to create a "deportation force" that will track down everyone living in the country without permission, Pence said "we will have a mechanism" that will be "tough" but "fair." Tapper repeatedly pressed Pence to say whether Trump is still determined to deport all 11 million unapproved immigrants, and Pence repeatedly dodged the question, saying only that "you're going to hear more detail in the next two weeks that lays out all the policies."

Appearing on the CBS show Face the Nation yesterday, Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said the candidate has been "pretty consistent" on immigration, since "there's still no amnesty" and he's still "building that wall" on the Mexican border. As for the 11 million or so unauthorized residents of the United States, "he wants to address that issue humanely and fairly." Conway conceded that "he is not talking about a deportation force" anymore but does insist that "if you want to be here legally, you have to apply to be here legally"—phrasing that is consistent with a path to legalization (just don't call it amnesty!), whether or not it requires leaving the U.S. before applying. Yet Conway later said Trump remains committed to "making sure that there's no legalization."

Trump plans to give an immigration speech on Wednesday, which will give him an opportunity to muddy matters further. His sudden fondness for mealy-mouthed moderation on this subject poses obvious risks for a candidate whose appeal was based largely on his politically incorrect candor and his promise to crack down on illegal immigration. The shift may prove just plausible enough to dampen enthusiasm among his supporters without making him more appealing to the majority that favors some form of legalization.

NEXT: Ruling Against Burkini Ban Hinges on the Meaning of 'Decency' and 'Public Order'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. When the cream has curdled with such acute rancidity one is forced question the vitality of the crop.

  2. Trump waffling? Presidential!

    1. Don't you mean *shearing* your post, bangla?

  3. It should have been clear from the first debate he participated in that Trump was "different" from other politicians only in his willingness to use direct insults rather than veiling them. The politician's ability to talk for hours without giving a straight answer on any real issue is still present.

    1. ...and the hoary billionaire who has firmly saddled his goddamn ass into king's chair over the last several decades of contemptuous leering and lording while entertaining innumerable lolling tongues slipping and drizzling their incestuous adorations over the tip of his golden fucking cock has FUCKING failed with gigantic ineptitude to beat the goddamn ass off a motherfucking corrupt shilling grandmother from GODDAMN ARKANSAS. Jesus FUCKING Christ.

      Fuck this rich slipknot back to his goddamn glass steeples where infinite valleys of impish slaves clack timid shiverings into keyboards and manila folders.

      1. Please. Tell us how you really feel.

  4. It seems to me that there is pretty good compromise opportunity here, but I don't remember ever seeing any politicians support it: Create a new type of visa that lets current illegals stay and work indefinitely so long as they don't break any more laws and pay their taxes, etc. But it does not let them ever get a green card or citizenship. If they want those things they have to leave and come back legally. That would take away the main Republican concern that all these illegals are just going to vote Democrat if they receive "amnesty".

    1. Bush had this plan on the table back in his first term. It predictably went nowhere. Despite giving the Democrats basically everything they were asking for sans 30 million instant Democrat voters, he garnered zero support from across the isle.

    2. "That would take away the main Republican concern that all these illegals are just going to vote Democrat if they receive "amnesty".

      Yeah but it also takes away the primary Democratic concern in that they need more of the ignorant and uneducated voters that make up the strongest part of their base. Why do you think it is they rail against H1B's but want more produce pickers? If it was just about allowing people to work but not vote they may have already gotten a compromise.

  5. """""As for the 11 million or so unauthorized residents of the United States, "he wants to address that issue humanely and fairly."""""

    He wants to send them back to a country where US college students have spring break. Oh, The Humanity!!!!!

    1. Well in fairness I don't think they are having spring break anywhere near the places these people live.

  6. I may have said once or twice when Trump was first Trumping that I suspected he didn't intend to do any of the things he was saying.

    Aaaaaand the crawfishing begins....

    1. He actually does believe exactly half of the things he espouses. The trick is figuring out which half.

      1. As opposed to H, who apparently doesn't believe *anything* she espouses.

        1. I'm sure she has slipped up and accidentally told the truth a couple of times.

  7. Actually, I don't see any inherent conflict between the two positions "millions of deportations" and "path to legalization".

    You could easily create a sane immigration policy that allows massive increases in the numbers of immigrants from the Americas, allows current residents to obtain work visas and still deports anyone who fails to gain legal status.

    That's sorta what we claimed we were going to do during the second round of amnesty. Except we didn't increase the number of legal immigrants allowed. Oh, and we never followed through on all that employer enforcement stuff. Unless you work at a normal company and are clearly born in the US - then you have to dig up 11 forms of "proof of citizenship".

    1. Which brings me to a question about illegal immigration enforcement. In order for about 10% of our population to be illegal, there has to be some level of complicity from the government. Our company had to jump through all sorts of hoops to hire people, ensuring that we had proper documentation. Yet there are loads of industries that clearly are dominated by "undocumented workers".

      It reminds me of moving to Atlanta back in the early 90's. They had all of these businesses on Cheshire Bridge Rd. that had me puzzled. "Lingerie Modeling" was the big one. A half-dozen places offered the service. I asked about it and got clued in as to what that meant.

      So.... everybody knows that this is where the prostitutes are. With even less of a cover than "Oriental Massage".

      And yet, nobody does anything. Clearly this has to involve the complicity of government officials at some level. If I know about it, there's no way the mayor hasn't heard of it.

      So you drive up to any construction site and look at all of the drywall crews. Hmmmm... don't speak English... and the industry has a reputation for hiring illegals.... Yet enforcement can't catch them?

      Or go to any vegetable field in California. Are there any legal immigrants out there? Or a tobacco field in South Carolina...

      How does this work? Clearly we've decided that we need the immigrant labor and aren't enforcing the law. But who decided? How? Where?

  8. Facebook gives you a great opportunity to earn 98652$ at your home.If you are some intelligent you makemany more Dollars.I am also earning many more, my relatives wondered to see how i settle my Life in few days thank GOD to you for this...You can also make cash i never tell alie you should check this I am sure you shocked to see this amazing offer...I'm Loving it!!!!

  9. My goodness. Over 50 years, ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION has be an issue in America.
    Trump, in my opinion, has made the biggest effort to get to the bottom of this issue. Yes he had an intitial plan, and now he is modifying it.
    So, believe it or not, that is how one creates and resolves an issue.
    Be part of the Team and add a positive suggestion to improve the issue of ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.
    A thought from NFAT>>

  10. Trump reminds me of Howard Beale, played by actor Peter Finch, from the movie "Network". Remember Beale told his followers to open their window and shout "I mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." After a meeting with industry leaders, Beale learns how the real world works. His transformation is rejected by his followers, and his TV show's ratings tank.

  11. Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who's been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it's so tough, Mr. Trump.

    Yeah, I'm just gonna file this under "Things that never happened."

  12. trump is surely going to be either one of usa's worst president or one of the best president Gaming Chair Sparrow Surf

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.