In an interview in 2012, Donald Trump said he did not believe in deporting illegal aliens who had been here for a long time and been productive — the sort of de facto amnesty he claimed to oppose in his primary campaign. The quote was unearthed by Andrew Kaczynski at CNN and appears to have been overlooked this entire campaign season. CNN:
Just four years ago, Donald Trump took a drastically different position on what is now his central issue: deporting undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Since he announced his candidacy last June, Trump has promised to build a wall on the US border with Mexico and at various times said he would, as president, deport all or many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country. However, in an June 2012 interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Trump said he didn’t believe in deporting undocumented immigrants who, he said, “had done a great job.”
Asked about his views on immigrant labor, Trump said, “You know my views on it and I’m not necessarily, I think I’m probably down the middle on that also. Because I also understand how, as an example, you have people in this country for 20 years, they’ve done a great job, they’ve done wonderfully, they’ve gone to school, they’ve gotten good marks, they’re productive — now we’re supposed to send them out of the country, I don’t believe in that, Michelle, and you understand that. I don’t believe in a lot things that are being said.”
Unless Donald Trump is saying that most illegals are not the good folks he describes here, he’s taking a position that most of them should not be deported.
The question is: does anybody care any more?
It is a measure of the way the race has developed that this will likely be greeted with a collective yawn. CNN has a video a the link that shows the tougher line Trump took during the primaries, saying flatly “they have to go” and speaking of a deportation force. “The good ones” would be allowed back, but first they would be deported. This is what he said. Trump voters were definitely duped in the primaries.
But the thing is, they will look you in the eye and tell you they weren’t. And Trump has known this ever since August, when his campaign floated a trial balloon of a softer approach on immigration, and his fans shrugged and said OK.
Let’s review some of the recent history. In August, it was suspected that Trump would be pivoting on immigration, based on comments he made at a town hall, and Big Media was buzzing with stories about a possible “softening.” For example, the L.A. Times reported on August 25:
Trump appeared to be test-driving a new, more moderate approach during a Fox News town hall this week. The idea, which sounded strikingly similar to those of his Republican primary rivals former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, would allow some immigrants to remain in the country as long as they had no criminal records and agreed to pay back taxes.
The Trumpers didn’t seem to care. Rush Limbaugh even told his listeners he had never believed Trump on immigration anyway — so, who cared if he was pivoting?
Ultimately, when Trump gave his immigration speech in Arizona on August 31, 2016, it was received as a reaffirmation of all his tough policy proposals. He did his level best to make it sound like he favored deporting everyone . . . in theory:
In a Trump administration all immigration laws will be enforced, will be enforced. As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities. But unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement. And ICE and Border Patrol officers will be allowed to do their jobs the way their jobs are supposed to be done.
Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.
CNN covered the speech with an article headline: Trump on immigration: No amnesty, no pivot:
That idea that Donald Trump is softening his immigration policy: Not going to happen.
The Republican presidential nominee on Wednesday re-upped the harsh immigration rhetoric that electrified his primary campaign, vowing “no amnesty” for undocumented migrants living in the United States and promising to build a “beautiful” and “impenetrable” border wall that Mexico would pay for — hours after that country’s president vowed that it wouldn’t.
But the lead-up to the speech, in which the Trump camp was floating the idea of amnesty, or at least refusing to deport huge masses of people, revealed for Trump that his most ardent supporters don’t really care about this issue. (Or any issues. As long as Trump seems to embody a generalized notion of combat with the left, any particular issue can be sacrificed for The Greater Good — whatever that is.)
And, frankly, the idea that 2012- or 2013-era Trump would support amnesty is not much of a shock, given that he seemed to approve of the idea of amnesty in 2013 . . . in a tweet:
Congress must protect our borders first. Amnesty should be done only if the border is secure and illegal immigration has stopped.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013
So the big CNN story is likely to have no effect. That’s our politics these days, folks. Giant contradictions in policy positions are meaningless.