Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met on Saturday with a group of Hispanic supporters, promising them that despite his rabidly anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric throughout his campaign, he would find a “humane and efficient” way of treating the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Three attendees of the meeting told Univision that Trump would announce on Thursday that he plans to create a path to legalization for undocumented residents. “Trump was very categorical in saying that he’s seeking a fair immigration reform,” a Republican National Committee spokeswoman who attended the meeting told the outlet.
While some media outlets suggested this might be a change of heart for Trump — or perhaps his latest flip-flop — a campaign spokesman dismissed that this marks any major policy change. “Mr. Trump said nothing today that he hasn’t said many times before, including in his convention speech — enforce the laws, uphold the Constitution, be fair and humane while putting American workers first,” Steven Cheung told BuzzFeed.
Indeed last November, Trump called for a “deportation force” to “ humanely” remove those illegally in the United States, but also previously spoke of an “expedited way of getting them back into the country so they can be legal.” His campaign website promises to triple the number of ICE officers, end birthright citizenship, and enhance penalties for overstaying visas.
But on Sunday, Trump’s new campaign manager told CNN that whether he still would have a deportation force was “to be determined.” And surrogate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told CBS’ Face the Nation that Trump is “wrestling” with how to handle deportations.
And Trump’s stump speech Saturday in Fredericksburg, Virginia, made it clear that his campaign was not softening its anti-immigrant approach. “One more issue central to law and order is having a secure immigration system,” he told the audience, adding that, “Failed Governor Tim Kaine — on whose watch Virginia’s unemployment rate more than doubled — allowed illegal immigration in Virginia to massively increase.” Noting that the “open border is also being used as a recruiting tool for criminal gangs,” he vowed that, in a Trump administration, “immigration laws will be enforced.”