U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he is open to “softening” his hard-line stance on illegal immigration that he has taken since the start of his campaign. Trump did not provide further details.
Speaking to Fox News anchor Sean Hannity at an immigration town hall event on Tuesday in Texas, Trump was asked about whether he would change U.S. laws to accommodate law-abiding migrants or those with children raised in the country.
Hannity asked: “Is there any part of the law that you might be able to change that would accommodate those people that contribute to society, have been law abiding, have kids here — would there be any room in your mind because I know you had a meeting this week with Hispanic leaders.”
“I did,” Trump replied. “I had a great meeting with great people, great Hispanic leaders, and there could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people. We want people — we have some great people in this country. We have some great, great people in this country but we’re going to follow the laws of this country and what people don’t realize — we have very, very strong laws.”
“There certainly can be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” Trump said. “We want people – we have some great people in this country.”
“We are going to follow the laws of this country,” he added.
Trump even questioned the audience at the Texas town hall event about how they would deal with immigration laws.
“So you have somebody who’s been in the country for 20 years, has done a great job, and everything else,” Trump said. “Do we take him and the family and her and him or whatever and send him out?”
Reaction from the audience was divided. Some applauded when Trump implied not all migrants should be deported while others cheered when he implied sending them back to their home countries.
This was another example of Trump modifying his proposal to deport every illegal migrant back to their country of origin after Kellyanne Conway, his new campaign manager, told CNN on Sunday that his “deportation force” to round up and eject the 11 million illegal migrants living in the U.S. was “to be determined”.
“What he’s saying is that we need to find a mechanism that works, that is fair, that is legal and, in his words, humane and doesn’t quote hurt people,” said Conway, adding she hoped Trump supporters attracted to his hard-line stance would also agree.
“I hope that they are saying what he says…which is that you don’t just look at people and try to harm them or treat them inhumanely. I think it’s a very important thing. And frankly, it’s leadership and it’s presidential,” she said.
This shift could help Trump win over more moderate voters but could dispirit his strongest supporters.
His hard-line position on immigration is a key factor of his appeal to Republican supporters and helped him defeat 16 rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.
Later on Tuesday at a rally in Austin, Texas, Trump made no mention of his possible shift on immigration laws and instead emphasized the crimes committed by some illegal migrants. Eight mothers whose children were murdered by undocumented migrants were brought on stage. He repeated his vow to deport undocumented migrants who have committed crimes and to build a wall on the Mexican border.
Trump postponed a speech planned for Thursday in Colorado that would outline his immigration policies. It is likely to be postponed until next week.
His possible new stance on immigration could be a move to convince more ethnic minorities, of whom polls have demonstrated to overwhelmingly support Democratic presidential nominee and rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump has called on African-Americans to vote for him, vowing that his economic and public safety policies would improve their quality of life.
His aides said on Tuesday that in the coming weeks Trump was planning to visit urban areas, including schools and churches, mostly inhabited by minorities to urge Black and Latino communities to support his presidential bid.
In response to news about Trump’s suggestion to soften his immigration policies, Republican strategist Rick Tyler, a former spokesman for U.S. senator Ted Cruz, said: “Why would anyone be surprised that Trump has pivoted to becoming the ‘amnesty’ candidate?”
“When you have no governing philosophy, pivots are par for the course. Guess we won’t need Mexico to build that wall,” Tyler added.