Is Trump About To Flip-Flop On Immigration?

A report over the weekend raises questions about whether or not Donald Trump is changing positions on a central tenet of his campaign.

Donald Trump Shrug

Yesterday’s news was full of speculation that Donald Trump was on the verge of flip-flopping on the issue that, more than any other, has defined his campaign for President:

Donald Trump’s campaign wavered Sunday on whether he would continue to call for the mass deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States, the latest in a series of sometimes-clumsy attempts to win over moderate GOP voters without alienating millions who have flocked to his hard-line views.

After insisting for more than a year that all illegal immigrants “have to go,” Trump met with a newly created panel of Hispanic advisers on Saturday and asked for other ideas — making clear that his position is not finalized, according to two attendees. Any shift would represent a remarkable retreat on one of the Republican nominee’s signature issues.

The meeting prompted attempts by Trump advisers on Sunday to clarify his position. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on CNN that Trump’s stance on mass deportations was “to be determined” but that he will be “fair and humane for those who live among us in this country.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a close Trump adviser, said on CBS that the nominee is “wrestling” with the issue but has not changed his position yet.

“People that are here unlawfully, came into the country against our laws, are subject to being removed,” Sessions said. “That’s just plain fact.”

The remarks were the latest in a series of moves by Trump or his aides in recent weeks to alter or shade his position on issues that have been central to his appeal — an effort that has accelerated as he fades in the polls behind Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The shifts appear aimed at shoring up support among white GOP moderates who have been reluctant to support extreme positions staked out by Trump during the Republican primary, including a massive U.S.-Mexico border wall, deportation of illegal immigrants and a “total” ban on foreign Muslims.

At the same time, any oscillation carries the risk of alienating Trump’s most loyal supporters, many of whom adore his willingness to buck “political correctness” by laying out brash proposals. Trump has thrived in part by staying vague on most of his policy positions, vaccillating between extreme rhetoric and assurances of reasonableness.

(…)

At the heart of Trump’s campaign is fierce opposition to illegal immigration. Trump has proposed building a mammoth wall along the southern border — so tall that no ladder could ever reach the top, he has said — and then to deport the millions of immigrants illegally in the country but allowing them to apply to reenter legally.

“They have to go,” Trump said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last year.

This June, Trump expressed hesitation in using the term “mass deportations,” although his aides would not say whether his position had changed. In the meeting Saturday with his Hispanic advisory panel, Trump asked to hear policy ideas — although the campaign said that should not be taken as a sign that Trump has changed his position.

“He addressed the immigration issue himself and said, ‘Look, I know it’s an issue. The biggest problem is the 11 million that are here.’ He asked for our input on how to deal with them,” said Jacob Monty, a Houston-based immigration attorney who handles complex immigration issues for large corporations, including the New York Yankees.

Conway — who was just hired last week amid a campaign shake-up — was asked during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether Trump still wants “a deportation force removing the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants.”

“To be determined,” said Conway, who in the past has supported creating a pathway to citizenship for the millions of immigrants illegally living in the United States.

“What he supports is to make sure that we enforce the law, that we are respectful of those Americans who are looking for well-paying jobs and that we are fair and humane for those who live among us in this country,” she said earlier in the interview.

Conway said the candidate will reveal the specifics of his immigration plan “as the weeks unfold.” Trump is expected to give an immigration policy speech on Thursday in Colorado.

In an interview this morning, Trump is saying that he’s not changing anything:

Donald Trump on Monday insisted his immigration policy is not changing, as the Republican nominee embarks on a week intended to explain and expand upon his proposals, which up until this point have focused on the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico and the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.

BuzzFeed News reported on a meeting Saturday between Trump and Hispanic leaders in which the Manhattan businessman was said to have indicated an openness to legalization for undocumented immigrants. The Trump campaign subsequently disputed that account, emphasizing that Trump had said nothing different.

Eric Trump offered a similar line of defense on Monday.

“Listen, I don’t know where the article came from. Actually, my father’s speaking about immigration all week, so I won’t steal his thunder and his fire,” Eric Trump said on “Fox & Friends,” teasing out the week’s theme. “But you know, my father’s immigration plan is pretty simple. He wants secure borders. You have to know who’s coming into the United States of America. You can’t let people come in unchecked. We have 100 million people in this country that are out of the workforce. Right? I mean we have manufacturing jobs in this country have gone down one-third since 2000. We’re losing jobs across the board, yet people are walking in unchecked and we don’t know who they are. And they could be ISIS.”

Trump said his father “wants a safe country, and he also wants Americans to have jobs.”

“I mean, they should come first. You were born in this country. You were born here legally. You’re here legally. I mean, wages have been stagnant for the last 15 years and it’s because you have, you know, Syrian refugees coming in,” Eric Trump continued. “It’s because you have, you know, thousands of people coming over the border. I mean, and Americans are suffering because of it and that’s his point. So he’s speaking to Hispanic and Latino leaders and he’s having really amazing conversations. He’s also speaking to law enforcement, he’s speaking to border patrol. And you know he’s going formulate a really, really great plan that’s humane and ethical and that treats everybody well. But we have to solve the problem. It’s a real problem for this country.”

Asked his reaction to the idea that his father is flip-flopping, Eric Trump was firm.

“My father hasn’t flip-flopped on anything. This was all the auspices of one article that came out that didn’t really — wasn’t grounded in any substance,” Trump explained. “But again, my father is giving a big speech on this on Thursday so he’ll be talking a lot about the specifics.”

 

It’s worth noting that Trump has always been kind of vague about what would happen to the people who were in the country illegally were he to become President. At times he has suggested that they would all been rounded up — men, women, and children — and forced to return to their country of origin. When its been pointed out just how logistically difficult this would actually be, he has waivered and suggested that there would be some sort of “revolving door” in his wall that would allow the deported immigrants to return quickly provided they don’t have criminal records. He’s also suggested that there would be a “Deportation Force” of some kind that would round people up, although he’s never addressed how his plan would address the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that people in the United States have the same due process rights under the 14th Amendment as citizens. (See Yick Wo v. Hopkins, Wong Win v. United States, Plyer v. Doe, and Zadvydas v. Davis) At other times he has hinted that the “revolving door” he’s talking about would be a figurative one and that many of the people here illegally won’t be required to leave at all.

In subsequent statements, Trump has denied that he’s changing his position on what has become a signature issue but his campaign continues to point to the upcoming policy speech in response to questions about where the campaign is going as it adjusts to the new leadership under Conway and former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, who has been a strong backer of more restrictive immigrant policies. It’s not unusual for a candidate for President to adjust their message in a General Election as opposed to a primary, of course, although it is typically a tough course to maintain. In Trump’s case, what we’re talking about here, though, wouldn’t just be a change in tone on his part, it would arguably be a rejection of one of the central themes of his campaign and oa policy proposal that has been part of his campaign from the day he entered the race. Trump making such a fundamental change in his position on immigration would be roughly the same as Ronald Reagan deciding in August 1980 to abandon the position he’d taken on lower taxes or a stronger national defense. Even if you could make a rational argument for abandoning policy positions this late in the campaign, the risk is that you look as though you’re pandering. In this case, it seems incredibly unlikely that, after everything Trump has said, Latino voters would change their mind about him in the short period of time between now and the election, and many of them are likely to see any effort to moderate tone on immigration as an effort to pander to them. At the same time, if Trump does switch positions drastically on this issue, he risks angering supporters who have stood by him throughout the long campaign.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    Strategically stupid. If he backs away from his nationalist jingoism he alienates his base.

    Those who don’t support him still won’t because there are a million other reasons not to. His irresponsible rhetoric on other topics will still accidentally start wars, his temperament is still ill-suited to international diplomacy and his business skills are still well below the average corner drug dealer.

    Trump’s only path forward is to stay the course on stupid and hope external events destroy Clinton. It’s a narrow path, but the only feasible one.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    This really isn’t surprising. Trump has been on both sides of almost every single issue.
    He’s a grifter and grifters are selling whatever you are buying.
    The bigger question in this, to me, is how Clinton responds. How does she go about not letting him get away with it? Can she make it a nail in his coffin? How hard is she willing to fight?

    My father hasn’t flip-flopped on anything.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/morning-joe-video-shows-trump-flip-flopping-on-foreign-policy-2016-8

  3. Kylopod says:

    It’s a testament to the normalization of Trump that proposing to round up millions of Latinos would be equated with lowering taxes and strengthening national defense.

  4. Eric Florack says:

    Why shouldn’t Trump flip flop on this? He’s coming down on both sides of every other issue since the beginning of this thing. That’s what happens when you have finger gauge instead of actual principles

  5. Eric Florack says:

    @C. Clavin: it’s my word that you won’t do a blessed thing. Look, she hasn’t done a press conference and how long now?

    Yes sometime a town hall in about the same amount of time. It’s my read that she recognizes she doesn’t have to do a thing to win the White House. Just sit back and wait until Trump blows up?

  6. CSK says:

    Trump doesn’t remember what he says from one day to the next. Remember when he changed his position on abortion three times in the course of one afternoon?

    His acolytes have responded to this most recent immigration flap by saying that the “lamestream media” is lying and misrepresenting him; he hasn’t changed at all.

    But say he has. Perhaps his real appeal is the fact that he’s a boor and a boob (a real American patriot!). In that case, it matters little how he flip-flops. He’ll be consistently an oaf.

  7. Kylopod says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Why shouldn’t Trump flip flop on this? He’s coming down on both sides of every other issue since the beginning of this thing. That’s what happens when you have finger gauge instead of actual principles

    Is it a sign of the Apocalypse that Eric Florack is making sense?

  8. C. Clavin says:

    the risk is that you look as though you’re pandering.

    C’mon…who has ever seen an orange pander bear?

  9. Tyrell says:

    The government needs to follow the immigration policies and laws as set forth. And that includes the president. People immigrate into this country every day – legally. They follow the procedures, wait, and go through the channels. People don’t seem have a problem with that. I was an early supporter of the “Dream Act” that was written by a bi-partisan group of people. I don’t know what happened to that. Most of the people who come into this country are law abiding people who are looking for a job, an opportunity: not a government handout.
    Of course, gang leaders, drug dealers, violent criminals, and those who have terrorist connections should not be allowed to enter this country at all.

  10. Jen says:

    This campaign is turning into a Rorschach test for Republican voters. Pick an issue, and the Trump campaign can show a statement for any side of the issue. It’s certainly an interesting way of securing votes.

    This has Conway’s fingerprints on it, just like the recent reaching out to African American voters. As a pollster, she can see how these statements and policy stances are harming his numbers. So, a quick “softening” of the language–not a reversal, juuuuuuust enough to make the Republican voters who want to vote R but who are appalled by Trump think “well, maybe he’s not so bad.”

    His base won’t care because they think they know the “real” Trump who will stick with them once elected. This is about trying to secure the non-nationalist part of the base Republican vote.

  11. al-Alameda says:

    Maybe he looked at the actual FACTS concerning illegal immigration – that ‘illegal’ immigration to America has been net-zero since the economic crash of 2008-09 – and he’s been a cynical hack and a grease ball opportunist who appeals to the worst instincts in people and now he wants to get things right?

    Nah …

  12. grumpy realist says:

    Great. So not only do we get gaslighting from Trump again, we get it from all his entourage.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    So Trump is moderating his tone, alright…by accusing Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezinski of having an affair and saying that Manafort was fired; forced to resign.
    This guy is just a flaming scumbag. Do we really want this kind of cretin in the White House?

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Which is hilarious given how far Scarborough was sucking up to Trump just a few months ago.

  15. bookdragon says:

    @Eric Florack: I believe that falls under “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.

  16. Bob Bullard says:

    I keep hearing about the Trump pivot but all I see is him continually spinning so nothing sticks to him.

    Trump goes from one statement at one rally to a modified view of that statement to a different group and then on and on and on as he keeps spinning his views around and around and around.

    It really reminds me of a ballerina pirouetting. I can envision his finger in the middle of the top of his head and his hair piece shifting as fast as his position on important topics.

    Trump doesn’t really flip-flop because he would have had to have had a position that he built his primary win on which he is moving away from, but from his spin of everything and anything he obviously has no firm positions of his own on anything. Trump is just pirouetting.

    He always starts his speeches with “many people say” or “I have read what many people feel” or “I have heard many many people say”….nothing is his real opinion, it is what the ether says and Trump echos it in full belief without ever having to state what his platform is or what his politics are. It is always what other people are saying and never a firm stance of his own!

  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:
  18. Gustopher says:

    I was getting bored with the Trump show, because it was so repetitive — crazed appeals to the Revanchists of White Nationalism mixed with insult comedy. How many times can you watch him say dispicable, undefensible things, and have his supporters defend it? It gets boring.

    If he switches to a longer plan of firing up the angry, crazy wing of the Republican Party, and then pissing all over them, and making them say they like it… That will be a nice twist. Nobody likes Illinois Nazis.

    I mean, all of it is bad for the country, but if we are going to have one of the major parties appealing to everything bad about America, we should at least get a good show out of it.

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    I mean, wages have been stagnant for the last 15 years and it’s because you have, you know, Syrian refugees coming in,” Eric Trump continued.

    I’m just going to leave that there and let it speak for itself. At no time after this election is over should there be any pretense about what this vile family actually is.

  20. Thor thormussen says:

    Is Trump About To Flip-Flop On Immigration?

    Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.

  21. Thor thormussen says:

    I’m just going to leave that there and let it speak for itself. At no time after this election is over should there be any pretense about what this vile family actually is.

    As a liberal, the best thing to me is that the GOP is really locking in and nailing down the Party of Racists label, just when America is finally really showing signs of being inclusive to groups it’s abused forever. If we’re lucky, they’ll marginalize themselves into powerlessness, and we can fix our major problems within 2-3 years, like what happened in California.

  22. Mister Bluster says:

    This guy is just a flaming scumbag. Do we really want this kind of cretin in the White House?

    Kelly you Ignorant Sl*t!

    “I thought it was a masterful choice, (Stephen KKK Bannon) to quote other people,” said Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.
    ——————
    One of those other people is Don Advo, a radio host and contributer to a neo-Nazi blog. Advo and Duke recently took some time to discuss the Trump campaign’s decision to hire Bannon.
    “So something astonishing has happened. We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,” Advo said.
    “Well, rank and file, but a lot of those boll weevils are still in those cotton balls, and, uh, the Republican Party may be a European-American populated party, but like a ball of cotton, you can have boll weevils in there that are going to rot it out from the inside,” Duke said.
    http://www.newsy.com/videos/former-kkk-leader-has-more-to-say-on-trump-s-campaign/

    *u

  23. Guarneri says:

    We interrupt the non-stop Trump bashing at OTB Blog to note that the OTHER candidate has been found to have attempted to delete supposed personal emails that were actually, well, um, well you see, NOT so personal. Seems the FBI has them. Shocking. I know. Is it time for more Colin Powell scapegoating or a flip flop on that?

    Well, I’m really pissed. Really pissed. I wanted to know all about wedding plans and yoga poses. Not classified state information. Booooring…..

    We now return to our regularly scheduled, well, 24/7 actually, hypocritical OTB Trump bashing. Have fun whacking it….

  24. Thor thormussen says:

    We interrupt the non-stop Trump bashing at OTB Blog to note that the OTHER candidate has been found to have attempted to delete supposed personal emails that were actually, well, um, well you see, NOT so personal. Seems the FBI has them. Shocking. I know. Is it time for more Colin Powell scapegoating or a flip flop on that?

    Colin Powell was SecState. Hillary Clinton was SecState. Hillary’s emails were FOIAd, Colin Powell’s emails were FOIAd. Hillary turned over 30,000+ emails from her personal account. How many has Powell turned over?

    (my guess is you’re going to choose Special Pleading for your bullshit response)

  25. Mister Bluster says:

    Have fun whacking it….

    Ole!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HftwU-zdjC8
    (not rated)

  26. al-Alameda says:

    @Guarneri:

    We now return to our regularly scheduled, well, 24/7 actually, hypocritical OTB Trump bashing. Have fun whacking it….

    Thanks for breaking up our reality-based assessment of Trump in order to (1) o deflect our attention the ongoing permanent investigation of Hillary Clinton, and (2) reinforce the perception of conservatives as whining victims of liberals.

    You’re welcome.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    Flappity-floppity flip!
    The mouse on the Mobius strip
    The strip revolved
    The mouse dissolved
    In an inter-dimensional skip.

    (A Space Child’s Mother Goose. I had weird parents.)

  28. grumpy realist says:

    @grumpy realist: Sorry, it was a chrono-dimensional skip the mouse dissolved into…..

  29. bill says:

    it’s not “flip flopping”, it’s “keeping an open mind”. like hillary does when;
    – she’s against gay marriage and then for it
    -she’s against illegal immigration and now she’s all about it.
    – she votes to build a wall on the mexican border but then she’s didn’t know it was a “wall”….
    – she votes for the iraq war…but didn’t mean to….
    -she says she’ll put the coal industry out of business….but “mis-spoke”.

    i could go on but you know.

  30. grumpy realist says:

    @bill: When you have evidence that Hillary has held three different positions on one topic in the same day you can get back to me….

  31. Neil Hudelson says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I was gonna say…

  32. Thor thormussen says:

    Those who don’t support him still won’t because there are a million other reasons not to. His irresponsible rhetoric on other topics will still accidentally start wars, his temperament is still ill-suited to international diplomacy and his business skills are still well below the average corner drug dealer.

    speaking of that, did you see the Illinois senator who said Obama was like the “Drug-Dealer in Chief.”

    where do silly democrats get the idea that republicans are racist?

  33. michael reynolds says:

    @Tony W:

    I doubt he alienates his base. Like Richard Gere in Officer and a Gentleman, They “got nowhere else to go!”

    Trump is white and angry and male and racist and despises women. Of course they’ll stick with him.

  34. Matt says:

    @Thor thormussen: It was worse then that as Mark Kirk didn’t even provide a coherent reason for calling Obama the drug dealer in chief. Nothing that mark said had anything to do with drugs or the concept of drug dealing. It was a blatant attempt to feed off the racist belief that all blacks are criminals…

  35. Mister Bluster says:

    TODAY AUGUST 22, 2016 ERIC TRUMP:
    “My father hasn’t flip-flopped on anything. This was all the auspices of one article that came out that didn’t really — wasn’t grounded in any substance,” Trump explained. “But again, my father is giving a big speech on this on Thursday so he’ll be talking a lot about the specifics.”

    TODAY AUGUST 22, 2016
    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump cancelled scheduled campaign events in Colorado, Nevada and Oregon in a week that was originally billed by the campaign as focusing on immigration.
    While Trump will attend a private fundraiser in Aspen, Co. he will not make a speech on immigration that was scheduled in Denver on Thursday, according to the Denver Post.

    I think the Republican Party needs to stop supporting Trump TILL THEY CAN FIGURE OUT WHAT’S GOING ON!?!?!

  36. Mister Bluster says:

    From the Denver Post

    Donald Trump to make fundraising trip to Colorado, campaign now says no immigration speech expected
    The campaign was exploring a Denver-area location for the event, but later reversed course. The campaign told supporters in an email “the speech (Trump) was planning on giving is still being modified.”
    Still, the Republican presidential nominee will attend a big-dollar fundraiser in Aspen that includes the option for a VIP meeting with Trump for donors who contribute $25,000 or more.
    http://www.denverpost.com/2016/08/22/donald-trump-immigration-plan-aspen-colorado/

    Who, in their right mind, at this stage of the game, would shell out $25,000 for a VIP meet with this crank?

  37. Jen says:

    @Mister Bluster: You would be surprised at the number of people who apparently have money to burn, who simply want to get their picture taken with a candidate to display on their walls. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be in this line of work, and we’d have people lined up paying $10K a pop for the VIP meetings and all they really wanted was the picture.

  38. Eric Florack says:

    @Kylopod: I always make sense. That you don’t see it seems to be the problem

  39. C. Clavin says:

    OK…forget about the mass expulsion of 3% of the countries population and having a deportation force and deportation centers. Now Trump is embracing Obama’s immigration policy.

    “What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country, Bush, the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m going to do the same thing…As far as the rest, we’re going to go through the process, like they are now, perhaps with a lot more energy, and we’re going to do it only through the system of laws.””

    Establishment Republicans have got to be saying, WTF??? The base has got to be saying, WTF??? I mean, I’m saying, WTF???
    I don’t ever watch reality shows…but this reality show is fwcking hilarious.

  40. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:

    I always make sense.

    An abject racist, like yourself, never makes sense. Just ignorance and hate.