WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s vow to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants if elected president appeared to be undergoing a shift on Sunday as the struggling Republican candidate reaches out to minorities alienated by his harsh rhetoric.
The New York real estate magnate intends to lay out specifics of his immigration plan over the next few weeks, Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said.
Asked on CNN’s State of the Union whether they will include a “deportation force” that Trump has previously called for, Conway said, “To be determined.”
Trump met with Hispanic supporters at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York on Saturday, when several participants told Spanish-language network Univision that he said his plan will include finding a way to legalise millions of undocumented immigrants.
Trump acknowledged “that there is a big problem with the 11 million people who are here, and that deporting them is neither possible nor humane,” Univision quoted Jacob Monty, a Texas immigration lawyer who attended the meeting, as saying. The billionaire candidate, who has slid precipitously in polls since last month’s Republican convention, told the group of Hispanic conservatives that his plan would grant undocumented immigrants legal status “that wouldn’t be citizenship but would allow them to be here without fear of deportation”, Monty added.
If true, it would mark a sharp reversal for a candidate who launched his campaign for the presidency with a vow to build a giant wall on Mexico’s border, while disparaging illegal immigrants from Mexico as criminals and rapists.
He has repeatedly called for mass deportations of people in the country illegally, a stance critics say is inhumane and unrealistic. “What Donald Trump said yesterday in that meeting differed very little from what he’s said publicly, including in his convention speech last month in Cleveland,” Conway told CNN.
“It’s that we need a, quote, fair and humane way of dealing with what is estimated to be about 11 million illegal immigrants in this country,” said Conway, who also took part in the meeting. “Nothing was said yesterday that differs from what Mr Trump said previously,” she added. “He supports making sure that we enforce the law, that we are respectful of those Americans who are looking for well-paying jobs and that we are fair and humane for those who live among us in this country.”
Senator Jeff Sessions, a Trump adviser, also said the candidate made no firm commitments during his session with Hispanic supporters, “but he did listen and was talking about it.” According to Sessions, Trump is “wrestling with” what to do about the country’s undocumented immigrants.