Within hours of “softening” his immigration position — suggesting that he would deport criminals, but be more lenient on other undocumented immigrants with long-standing ties to the country — Donald Trump pulled back the reins on Thursday.
The Republican presidential candidate, who built his campaign on promises to send out a “deportation force” to round up the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, made headlines earlier this week for apparently changing his stance.
Trump appeared to adopt the same stance on immigration reform that he used to mock his GOP presidential rivals for holding — suggesting that undocumented immigrants who have been living in the country for decades, and who haven’t committed any crimes, should have a chance to stay in the country after they pay back taxes.
But during an interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper on Thursday night, Trump appeared to return to his hard-line position of ensuring the removal of all undocumented immigrants in the country, saying that non-criminal immigrants have a “good chance” of being deported under his presidency.
During the interview, he first made clear that his top priorities are building a border wall and deporting the “bad ones,” or immigrants with criminal records. But in the same breath, Trump said that he would consider deporting people without records as well.
TRUMP: There’s no path to legalization unless they leave the country. When they come back in, then they can start paying taxes, but there is no path to legalization unless they leave the country and then come back.
COOPER: If you haven’t committed a crime and you’ve been here for 15 years and you have a family here, you have a job here, will you be deported?
TRUMP: We’re going to see what happens once we strengthen up our border. But there’s a very good chance the answer could be yes. We’re going to see what happens. Before I do anything, I want to get rid of the bad ones, and there are a lot of them.
Trump’s rapid-fire shifts on immigration reform indicate that his policy position has not actually been fully fleshed out, just days before he is set to deliver an immigration speech in Phoenix, Arizona next week.
The lack of clarity has rattled the GOP, particularly among conservatives who don’t want Trump to moderate his stance on immigration. Meanwhile, former presidential rivals and their campaign staff have mocked Trump for his politically motivated shifts on immigration reform.
— Eric Cantor (@EricCantor) August 25, 2016
“Everything Trump promises comes with an expiration date. We knew it during the primary, and now it is apparent he has duped his most loyal supporters on the issue they care about most, immigration,” Amanda Carpenter, the former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), told Politico.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went even further, calling Trump’s crowdsourced policy plans “abhorrent.”
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) August 25, 2016
Trump’s campaign spokespeople insist that his position on the issue has always been consistent.