David Martosko, Daily Mail, August 24, 2016
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has backed away further from his hard-line stance on deporting millions of illegal immigrants, risking backlash from his base who have taken him at his word.
Trump said Wednesday night on the Fox News Channel’s ‘Hannity’ program that while he still opposes ‘amnesty’ for border-jumpers and would deny them a path to citizenship, he’s inclined to let the bulk of them stay in the U.S. and ‘work with them.’
That position puts him in line with those of Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose stances he ridiculed during the Republican primary season.
Trump maintained that illegal immigrants who lead a life of crime would be deported quickly, but suggested that otherwise law-abiding people whose only crime was to sneak into the United States would be in a different category.
‘Everybody agrees we get the bad ones out,’ Trump said.
‘But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I’ve had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they’ve said, “Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who’s been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump”.’
‘I have it all the time! It’s a very, very hard thing,’ he said.
Trump insisted that there would be a penalty for entering the U.S. without authorization, in the form of a tax.
‘They’ll pay back taxes – they have to pay taxes,’ Trump insisted. ‘There’s no amnesty, as such. There’s no amnesty, but we work with them.’
Lost in talk of taxes is the fact that for low-income or destitute illegal immigrants, adding them to the tax rolls would make them eligible for a host of government perks including the generous Earned Income Tax Credit.
For illegal immigrants with three or more children and low incomes, that would amount to $6,242 per year from taxpayers.
Trump’s comments came in the second part of his interview conducted on Tuesday with Fox host Sean Hannity.
They signaled a further softening in his immigration position as he girds for a battle against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November 8 election and faces pressure to bolster support among moderate voters and minority groups.
Trump defeated 16 rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in part based on his opposition to illegal immigrants.
Trump said he would outline his position in detail soon.
‘Well, I’m going to announce something over the next two weeks, but it’s going to be a very firm policy,’ Trump told WPEC in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump’s new position’s also has some alignment with a failed 2007 reform push by former Republican President George W. Bush.
That effort offered a way to bring millions ‘out of the shadows’ without amnesty and would have required illegal immigrants to pay a fine and take other steps to gain legal status.
Trump’s latest comments came as Nigel Farage, an anti-immigration politician who was part of Britain’s successful campaign to leave the European Union, addressed Trump’s rally in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday night.
Trump has retained much of his immigration agenda in a bid to keep his base in line while he softens other parts of it in order to broaden his appeal to independents and some Democrats.
He still wants to build a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico but he has emphasized in recent days a need to deal most urgently with illegal immigrants who commit crimes and also those who might be displacing African-American and Hispanic workers.
At a rally earlier in Tampa, Florida, Trump did not talk about deporting as many as 11 million illegal immigrants as he has in the past, instead saying he would aim enforcement efforts at people who are committing crimes such as overstaying their visas.
‘Hillary Clinton wants a totally open border so people can just pour in,’ Trump said.
‘We are going to enforce our laws, remove people who overstay their visas, dismantle the gangs and cartels, and protect jobs and benefits for hardworking American citizens.’
Trump trails Clinton in national public opinion polls as well as in many battleground states where the election will be decided.
After a campaign shake-up last week, he has made more urgent attempts to appeal to moderate voters and minority groups who have been disenchanted by his bellicose rhetoric.
As part of an outreach to minority voters, who opinion polls show favoring his opponent, Trump plans to visit some African-American communities, a departure from his reliance on white voters.
One such stop is expected to be in September in Detroit.
One adviser, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, an African-American who ran against Trump for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, told MSNBC he would accompany Trump.
‘There’s no question that he will be in the communities. He will be talking to African-American leaders around the country in different cities to find out what they believe is important, and what they think has worked,’ Carson said.
Trump argues that many minority groups have suffered under Democratic policies, particularly in inner cities.
He vowed to make cities safer so that ‘when you walk down your street… you’re not going to be shot, your child is not going to be shot.’