Donald Trump recently told an audience on Fox News that he is open to “softening” some of his positions on immigration. While the campaign contends that Trump will continue the same “tough but fair” approach he held throughout the primary, many observers have detected a shift in tone from the candidate and his surrogates over the last few news cycles. But does that mean his policy is actually changing?
Here are five easy questions Trump should answer in order to let voters know where he really stands on the issue.
You’ve previously said you could deport 11 million undocumented people within 18-24 months. Is that still your goal? How would you do it using only “existing laws?”
Trump was very explicit about his objectives during the Republican primary: deport all 11 million undocumented people living in the United States and do it within two years. Now, he is attempting to muddy the waters about his goal by saying that he will use “existing laws” and pointing to the high number of deportations under the Obama administration to suggest his policy will be similar. In his words, Trump plans to “do the same thing” but with “a lot more energy.”
But even though President Obama earned the moniker of “deporter-in-chief” for his aggressive enforcement policy, those tactics didn’t even come close to the kinds of numbers that Trump promised his supporters.
From January 2009 to January 2016 the Obama administration deported a record-breaking 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, more than any other president in U.S. history. For Trump to deport 11 million people in two years would require a 3000% increase in the rate of deportations—which, again, are at an historic peak. That seems, to put it mildly, hard to achieve by continuing existing policy. It’s so difficult that Trump himself acknowledged that during the primary.
In an interview last November on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump said he would create a special “deportation force” to round up undocumented people for deportation. Trump’s campaign manager now says that the launching of such a force is “to be determined.”
Trump has also begun distancing himself from his earlier praise of a Draconian crackdown on undocumented people from the 1950’s infamously nicknamed “Operation Wetback.”
So, Donald, which is it? A deportation force that aggressively pursues all undocumented people in the United States? Or a continuation of the existing policy with a little more gusto?
Do you stand by your position to end birthright citizenship?
Among the most outlandish positions that Donald Trump took during the Republican primary was a call to end the constitutional right to citizenship for anyone born in the United States. Trump has previously derided the children of undocumented immigrants born in the United States as “anchor babies.”
Last year, Trump endorsed a dubious legal theory that argues that people born on U.S. soil are not actually entitled to citizenship if their parents are immigrants.
“I don’t think they have American citizenship and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers — and I know some will disagree — but many of them agree with me and you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship,” he told reporters. “We have to start a process where we take back our country. Our country is going to hell.”
This theory had been deemed utterly preposterous by by most constitutional experts. Among those experts was former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who told an interviewer in 2011, “The 14th Amendment provides for birthright citizenship. I’ve looked at the legal arguments against it, and I will tell you as a Supreme Court litigator, those arguments aren’t very good.” As a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2015 Cruz changed his position in order to appeal to Trump supporters.
Trump will have a hard time convincing voters he has moderated his position on immigration if he maintains his position that even that founding fathers were too liberal about citizenship.
So Donald, do you still believe in this wildly extreme law?
Do you still think that the “good ones” have to be deported?
Trump has begun saying he’s going to start deporting “the bad ones” before any supposedly better immigrants are forced out of the country. “The first thing we’re going to do is going to, if and when I win, is we’re going to get rid of all of the bad ones,” he told Fox News on Monday. “We got gang members, we have killers, we have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country. We’re going to get them out.”
But Trump used to emphasize that he was going to make an effort to deport every undocumented immigrant regardless of how “good” or “bad” they are.
During a CNN debate in February Trump told moderators, “We have at least 11 million people that came in illegally. They will go out. Some will come back, the best, through a process. They have to come back legally. It may not be a quick process, but I think that’s fair. They’re going to get in line with other people.”
In other words, Trump’s position during the primary was that all undocumented people were going to be deported immediately and “the best” would have the small privilege of being allowed to begin the long and arduous process of applying for citizenship, but only after they had left the country.
The question for Trump now is, does he still believe that immigrants who have not committed violent crimes should be pursued for deportation? Is it still true that “they will go out” under his accelerated timeline? And will they still be forced to get in the back of a long line of legal applicants for citizenship or a green card, even though Trump also wants to reduce the levels of legal immigration? Moreover, since Trump has said that he thinks “half” of all immigrants are criminals, just who does he consider the “bad” ones anyway?
Well, Donald? What’s your answer?
Are you going to close detention centers? And if so, what happens to law-abiding non-citizens slated for deportation?
Trump’s suggestion that he would not use detention centers in carrying out his deportation policy has surprised many. In his Fox News interview on Monday, Trump responded to a question about detention centers by saying, “You don’t have to put them in a detention center. Bill, you’re the first one to mention a detention center. You don’t have to put them in a detention center…. I’ve never even heard the term, I’m not going to put them in a detention center.”
But Trump’s campaign maintained the position that he would limit H-1B visas, releasing a statement after the Fox debate saying he would “end forever” the use of H-1B visas for cheap labor. Trump’s campaign also took a hard line against people who overstay their visas, arguing early on that local law enforcement should be empowered to detain such people.
Trump needs to explain his position on H-1B visas once and for all, and tell the American people where he stands on allowing high-skilled workers to live in this country and contribute to our economy.
What’s going on here, Donald?!
Donald Trump is a man who likes telling people exactly what he thinks they want to hear while never admitting that he’s ever made a mistake, so it’s no wonder his rhetoric on the issues is constantly changing. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to make any substantive shifts in policy—and that’s why voters and the media have to hold him to account.