Donald Trump on Wednesday signaled a significant reversal on immigration, the signature issue that propelled him to the Republican presidential nomination.
During a town-hall interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, set to air on Wednesday night, Trump suggested that he would not look to deport all of the 11 million-plus immigrants in the country illegally.
“No citizenship,” he said, according to a partial transcript. “Let me go a step further — they’ll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them.”
“Now, everybody agrees we get the bad ones out,” he continued. “But 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.”
Trump has hinted at a “softening” in his hard-line immigration stance in recent days. At one point in the GOP primary, he said that he would impose a “deportation force” to return all immigrants in the country illegally to their countries of origin, subsequently letting people attempt to return under legal methods. He has also promised to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Trump’s deportation shift on Wednesday sounded similar to rhetoric used throughout the primary season by Republican candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose immigration platforms Trump criticized during the contest.
“Actually, with path to legalization, looks like Trump finally read @JebBush book Immigration Wars,” former Bush adviser Charlie Spies tweeted. “This = his plan.”