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Trump indicates he may be softening on immigration

Donald Trump’s immigration policy and whether he’s softening or pivoting from hardline policies articulated early in his campaign have become a source of some debate in the last few days, since his meeting with Hispanic supporters Saturday.

His promise to build a wall at the southern border remained unquestioned. But some attendees, according to Univision, left that meeting believing that Trump planned to announce that as president he’d legalize some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country

Later Saturday, his campaign said nothing had changed. 

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“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,” said Steven Cheung, Trump’s rapid response director.

When Trump spoke to CBS News’ Scott Pelley in a “60 Minutes” interview in September last year, he said that his administration would kick out the 11 million undocumented immigrants. 

“If they’ve done well, they’re going out and they’re coming back legally,” he told Pelley.

“You’re rounding them all up,” Pelley asked him. 

“We’re rounding ‘em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice,” Trump responded. “But not everything is nice.”

Deporting the undocumented en masse came up in the fourth GOP primary debate, when Trump praised President Dwight Eisenhower’s deportation program, which Trump noted “moved a 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country.” 

When Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was asked over the weekend by CNN whether Trump still wants to see a deportation force, she said that was “to be determined.”

Meanwhile, CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett on Tuesday asked Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, to explain Trump’s immigration policy.

“Donald Trump put the whole issue of illegal immigration back in the forefront of the national debate through the Republican primaries and I commend him for that. It’s an issue that’s deeply troubling to millions of Americans – its impact on our economy,” he responded. “Its impact on the challenges we face in law enforcement, some of the tragedies we’ve seen around the country.”

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Garrett pointed out the confusion of the last few days between “what he actually means and what he intends to do.”

“I think he’s been very clear that Donald Trump is gonna restore strong borders, enforce our laws,” Pence said, again without illuminating Trump’s stance on deportation. “He’s gonna build a wall. He’s gonna do what a lot of people on Capitol Hill have been talking about for more than a decade – and that is upholding the laws of this country and enforcing the laws of this country.”

Pence did say “the mechanism for how we do that--[Trump has] also been very clear that we’ll do it in a humane way,” adding after another follow-up question that “it’ll be tough but fair.” And pressed one more time on what “tough but fair” means in relation to deportations, Pence told Garrett, “I think those are issues that will continue to be worked out in the days ahead.”

Trump himself on Monday night told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor” that “We’re going to obey the existing laws,” and should he be elected, “we’re gonna get rid of all the bad ones. We’ve got gang members, we have killers, we have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country....They’re gonna be out of this country so fast, your head will spin.” 

He suggested he would use the existing laws followed by George W. Bush and President Obama to “do the same thing” and get “tremendous numbers of people out of the country,” adding, “At the same time, we want to do it in a very humane manner.”

Trump also told O’Reilly that “I am not going to put them in detention centers,” although he also would not commit to leaving undocumented immigrants in their homes while they’re being processed. 

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