Team’s new manager suggests stance may soften; Democrats and some
Republicans see no change
Donald Trump’s campaign suggested Sunday that the Republican presidential candidate
is prepared to soften his stance on immigration, though the signal was
Mr. Trump has made a tough stand on immigration a signature issue of his
campaign, pledging among other things to create a “deportation force”
to rapidly remove some of the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented
On Sunday, his new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, dialed back on that
pledge, suggesting the deportation force might not be set up after all.
Asked on CNN if Mr. Trump would mobilize this deportation force in the
White House, Ms. Conway responded: “To be determined.”
She added: “What he supports is to ensure that we respect the law.
He will lay out the specifics of that plan.”
Others in the campaign, though, suggested there would be no backtracking
on Mr. Trump’s proposals to significantly tighten Mr. Trump tried
this past week to reach out to minority groups, in part by holding a meeting
on Saturday with his Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower in New York.
Mr. Trump has angered many Hispanic leaders during the campaign, due to
his comments about Hispanic immigrants being “rapists” and
his plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The meeting produced a tangle of reports that indicated Mr. Trump told
the gathering that he was open to changing his view. A Republican National
Committee representative at the Saturday session said Mr. Trump gave no
indication he would support legalization for some undocumented residents.
A Trump spokesman, Steven Cheung, said the candidate’s immigration
position hasn’t changed. “Mr. Trump said nothing today that
he hasn’t said many times before, including in his convention speech—enforce
our immigration laws, uphold the Constitution, and be fair and humane
while putting American workers first,” he said in a statement.
John Podesta, chairman of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s
campaign, said the Trump position doesn’t appear to have changed,
and added that the GOP nominee’s positions add up to a policy that
could hurt many families. “We believe the RNC official in the room,
the campaign’s statement after the meeting and the candidate himself
that Donald Trump’s immigration plan remains the same as it’s
always been: tear apart families and deport 16 million people from the
United States,” Mr. Podesta said in a statement.
Any retreat on immigration policies, which have been a signature issue
for Mr. Trump, could be politically risky.
On the one hand, GOP leaders have urged the campaign to soften its rhetoric
in an attempt to improve Mr. Trump’s poor standing with the rapidly
growing universe of Hispanic voters, who will make up an estimated 12%
of eligible voters this year.
But Mr. Trump’s fervent backers are counting on a continued tough
line on immigration. At his rallies, they frequently break into chants
of “build the wall” to underscore his promise to build a wall
to keep immigrants from Mexico and Central America out of the U.S. They
may grant Mr. Trump some leeway, given that his longstanding stance as
a fighter against illegal immigration, but also could be upset with any
move to cater to other voters by softening the message.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, a key Trump adviser, was asked on Sunday whether the
candidate still planned to quickly deport the 11 million people if he
won the White House.
The Alabama Republican, speaking on
CBS, was noncommittal. “What I’m certain about is that he did
not make a firm commitment yesterday, or the meeting the other day, about
what he will do with that,” the senator said. “But he did
listen, and he’s talking about it.”
Mr. Sessions emphasized that Mr. Trump isn’t backing off his plan
for “extreme vetting,” or ideological assessments, for those
coming into the U.S.
“The American people clearly support the idea that if you can’t
vet somebody from a dangerous area of the globe, they should not be brought
into the U.S.,” he said.
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