Trump Tries to Explain Immigration ‘Softening’

GOP nominee says some might avoid deportation, but reaffirms 'no amnesty, no citizenship'

In the second part of a two-day town hall hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Donald Trump Wednesday fleshed out the “softening” on immigration that he referred to the night before.

The Republican nominee for president sought to reconcile a new, more empathetic approach to the issue with a reaffirmed commitment to restoring law and order to the nation’s broken immigration system. Trump temporarily took control of the show, asking audience members if they preferred a no-exceptions deportation policy or allowances for illegal immigrants who have been living productive lives in the United States for a long time. Sentiment seemed to be on the side of the latter option.

“The bad guys are out of here. Now that one, we agree on. I mean they’re gonna be out of here even faster than you could throw them out.”

Trump asked who believed all illegal immigrants and their families should be kicked out of the country.

“I do,” one man said.

Trump asked the man to stand up, and the real estate mogul said he admired his stance. But Trump suggested he was not prepared to take such a hard line.

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“We are going to come up with a decision very soon,” he said, looking directly at the audience member. “The bad guys are out of here. Now that one, we agree on. I mean they’re gonna be out of here even faster than you could throw them out. OK?”

Trump said he has received similar feedback all across the country.

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“Everywhere I go, I get the same thing,” he said. “They want toughness. They want firmness. They want to obey the law. But, but, they feel that throwing them out, as a whole family, when they’ve been here a long time, that it’s a tough thing. They do feel that.”

Trump distinguished his position from scores of other politicians who have proposed forgiving immigrations violations — sometimes on condition that the illegal immigrants pay fines and back taxes — and start on a path toward eventual citizenship. Under Trump’s latest formulation, some illegal immigrants may be able to avoid deportation — but not much else.

“No amnesty, no citizenship, etc.,” he said.

Trump said he would confront this “sanctuary city nonsense,” a reference to cities and other jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. And he reiterated his most famous campaign pledge — building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

“We have to build the wall. We have no choice,” he said. “It’ll get done so quickly, your head will spin … And it will be a real wall.”

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Trump said a 1,000-mile wall — which he suggested should be 35-45 feet tall — would be easy compared to the 13,000-mile Great Wall of China, built without modern machinery.

Asked about his pledge of “extreme vetting” of people who enter the country from countries with terrorist strongholds, Trump said, “We’re not going to allow them to come into this country. Hillary Clinton wants them to pour into this country.”

Clinton sniped at Trump from CNN, where she gave a long interview to Anderson Cooper.

“Donald Trump has shown us who he is, and we ought to believe him,” she said. “He is taking a hate movement mainstream. He’s brought it into his campaign.”

On “Hannity,” though, several prominent Trump backers vouched for him. Sen. Jeff Sessions said Trump represents the last best chance to turn America around.

“Donald Trump has spoken out for millions of Americans,” he said. “He’s their voice. He’s proven that by the scars he’s taken.”

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said on “Hannity” that Trump would make a stark contrast with President Obama’s record on immigration. He said 53 percent of all apprehensions along the 1,800-mile border take place in a 150-mile area in south Texas.

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“You fish where the fish are,” he said. “And you go where the problems are … They’re putting the resources in the wrong places.”

Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, said the next president needs to make interior immigration enforcement a priority. He noted that the United States has 5,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to enforce immigration law in 50 states and some territories. The New York City Police Department, in contrast, which has about 34,000 officers.

“We are set up for failure, and Congress knows it,” he said.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said he appreciated that Trump has sought and taken advice from rank-and-file border agents. He called the proposed wall a “force multiplier” and said agents are “handcuffed” by the policies of the current administration.

“They’re letting the illegal aliens dictate to us what our jobs are,” he said.

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