WASHINGTON — Donald Trump wants a US-Mexico border wall, “extreme vetting” of new immigrants and deportations of those who commit crimes.
But does Trump still want a “deportation force” to expel all undocumented immigrants already in the United States?
Days after Trump stepped away from one of his signature policy positions, top surrogates — including vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway — offered unclear takes on where Trump stands.
Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson says none of it is really that complicated, however.
“He hasn’t changed his position on immigration. He’s changed the words that he is saying,” she said Thursday on CNN.
Here’s what we know — and don’t know — about Trump’s immigration policy:
During the Republican presidential primary, an animating policy of Trump’s campaign was his hardline stance on immigration. He first floated the prospect of a “deportation force” to boot all undocumented immigrants from the country — no matter how long they’d been in the United States — during an interview in November 2015, and later defended it in a December primary debate.
In recent days, Trump has backed away from that rhetoric — if not the policies.
“There could certainly be a softening” in his immigration proposals, Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Tuesday night, “because we’re not looking to hurt people.”
So has he scrapped the idea of removing all undocumented immigrants from the country? Trump wouldn’t say later in the week, in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“There is a very good chance the answer could be yes,” Trump said when asked if he would deport those who have lived here peacefully but without papers. “We’re going to see what happens.”
Trump was set to deliver a major speech on illegal immigration last week, but his campaign decided to postpone the address as it continues to craft its policy and the language to deliver it.
Trump running mate Mike Pence gave the GOP nominee some wiggle room on actually implementing that deportation force in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday, downplaying it as merely a “mechanism” to carry out Trump’s bigger-picture ideas.
“Well, what you heard him describe there, in his usual plainspoken, American way, was a mechanism, not a policy. I mean, you’re going to hear more detail in next two weeks that lays out all the policies,” Pence said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus admitted on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that his party’s nominee is considering changing his previous position, calling the issue complicated — even though Trump had ignored those complexities in the primary.
“He did simplify it. But now he’s reflecting on it and his position is going to be known,” Priebus said.
Bottom line: Would undocumented immigrants have to leave the United States? That’s what CBS’ John Dickerson asked Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on Sunday.
“That’s really the question here, John,” Conway said, leaving it unanswered.
Trump also made headlines during the primary for using the term “anchor babies” to describe the US-born children of undocumented immigrants — suggesting he didn’t support the citizenship status granted by the Constitution to those children.
Tapper pressed Pence Sunday on whether the GOP ticket believes those children are citizens.
“Well, I think the whole question of anchor babies, as it’s known, the whole question of citizenship, of natural-born Americans is a subject for the future,” he said. “I think the American people ought to ask it. We look at our whole immigration system and see whether that works and makes sense.”