Donald Trump’s campaign is attempting to simultaneously soften his position on immigration without alienating voters who support his hardline stance.
In a series of interviews on Sunday, high-profile members and allies of the campaign — such as vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus — refused to answer Trump would follow through on his plan to deport the millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.
Yet each also insisted that Trump’s plan was “consistent” with the immigration platform he touted during the Republican presidential primaries.
“Nothing has changed about Donald Trump’s position on dealing with immigration,” Pence said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
When repeatedly pressed by CNN host Jake Tapper over whether Trump still supported a so-called deportation force, Pence said it was more of a “mechanism, not a policy.” But he did not elaborate on Trump’s plan.
Conway took the argument slightly further, reiterating that the deportation force may be off the table, as she did in an interview last weekend.
Speaking to “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, Conway claimed that Trump has rarely mentioned his proposed deportation force and suggested he would consider backing away from the plan.
“He will look at that. The softening is more approach than policy, Chris,” Conway said.
She added: “He hasn’t mentioned [the deportation force] since last November or so, except a few of the debates you mentioned. … I would really implore the viewers, Chris, and others to look at the contrast between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.”
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Conway simultaneously asserted that Trump isn’t focused on a deportation force but would improve agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce existing immigration laws. Fully enforcing the law would essentially mean carrying out mass deportations.
“He is not talking about a deportation force, but he is talking about being fair and humane, but also being fair to the American workers,” Conway said.
She added: “He has to deal with those agencies already responsible for this who are not doing their jobs.”
But while the Trump campaign attempted to stay on its talking points, attacking Hillary Clinton’s proposal to create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the US without permission, there were still discrepancies among some of the Republican nominee’s surrogates.
The campaign remained at odds with the Republican Party over birthright citizenship, the constitutional right to American citizenship for any individual born in the US.
During an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” host Chuck Todd asked Priebus whether Trump still supported ending birthright citizenship.
“You’re going to have to ask him,” Priebus said. “I believe in the interpretation of the Supreme Court on the issue.”
Pressed further, Priebus emphasised that he’s “comfortable” with birthright citizenship.
Indeed, even the Sunday-show moderators appeared to be taken slightly aback by the Trump campaign’s late-campaign manoeuvring on immigration.
Tapper noted that the campaign was running out of time to release its new immigration plan.
“You’re saying it will be unveiled in the next few weeks — it’s 72 days until the election,” Tapper told Pence.
And during Sunday’s interview on “Meet the Press,” Priebus promised that Trump would unveil the specifics of his new immigration plan in the coming days, a comment that appeared to surprise Todd.
Said Todd: “It is sort of remarkable that we don’t know.”
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