His campaign’s constantly-evolving views — often championed as a way for Trump to use unpredictability to cut better deals for the nation — make it difficult glean a political agenda, or even a set of clear, core policy views ahead of his presidency.
It’s unclear, for example, if Trump plans to round up and deport the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants or give them a pathway to citizenship. After announcing he’d ban Muslims from entering the country ten months ago, it’s unclear if that policy still stands — his campaign some times says he’s expanded the policy and other times that he’s limited it.
After more than a year and a half of stadium rallies, around-the-clock interviews, sweeping primary wins, and one stunning general election victory, the Republican president-elect has the most contradictory and confusing platform in recent history. This is a catalog of his views over a 511-day span, from June 16, 2015 to November 8, 2016.
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1. Build a wall, deport all undocumented immigrants.
Trump’s campaign began with a promise to build a wall across the United States’ southern border and deport the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
2. Deport all undocumented immigrants but bring the “good” ones back legally.
In a CNN interview in July 2015, Trump said, “I want to move them out, and we’re going to move them back in and let them be legal, but they have to be in here legally.”
3. Build the wall, deport criminals, triple the number of ICE officers, end birthright citizenship.
In August 2015, Trump released a detailed, sprawling immigration plan that included a wide variety of ideas: Build the wall, make Mexico pay for it, deport criminal aliens, enhance penalties for overstaying visas, triple the number of ICE officers, pause immigration to try and employ unemployed Americans, cut worker visas and more. Trump’s plan didn’t detail how he’d enact most of his proposals, or how he’d pay for them. He’s walked back or modified much of it since.
4. Use a deportation force to implement policy.
In November 2015, Trump said he’d use a mass deportation force in order to remove the 11 million people.
“You’re going to have a deportation force. And your going to do it humanely,” Trump said in November on MSNBC.
5. Trump might be flexible on actually deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants.
BuzzFeed reported in February 2016 that in off-the-record talks with The New York Times, Trump admitted this was just bluster and a starting point for negotiations, saying he might not deport the undocumented immigrants as he’s promised. Trump has refused calls to release the transcript, despite furious requests from his rival candidates.
6. Deport undocumented immigrants, but don’t call it “mass deportations.”
“President Obama has mass deported vast numbers of people — the most ever, and it’s never reported. I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody,” Trump told Bloomberg News in June 2016 when pressed about his immigration policies.
When asked more about how he’d characterize the deportations at the center of his immigration policy, Trump said he “would not call it mass deportations.”
7. A deportation force is “TBD.”
Trump’s newly hired campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, dodged questions on the deportation force in August 2016 before saying that Trump’s much-talked about deportation force from the primary was “to be determined.”
8. “I’m gonna do the same” as past presidents.
Trump championed President Obama’s immigration strategy — deporting criminals first — in an interview with Fox News on Monday, August 22 when asked about how he’d deport 11 million illegal immigrants. He declined to answer questions of how he’d handle those who aren’t criminals.
9. I’m open to “softening.”
The next day, Trump told attendees of a town hall hosted by Fox News in Texas that he was open to “softening” laws to help immigrants already living in the United States peacefully. However, he followed that by saying that those who had overstayed visas — one of the key ways undocumented immigrants get into the U.S. — had to leave. “You have to get them out. You have to get them out,” Trump said.
It’s unclear what or how he’s softening his policy.
10. “There’s no amnesty” but “we work with them.”
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that aired Wednesday, August 24, Trump outlined an immigration plan that sounded an awful lot like the kind of path to legalization championed by Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio — the very people Trump excoriated for weak immigration plans while he campaigned on a promise of mass deportations.
“No citizenship. Let me go a step further — they’ll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them,” Trump said.
11. Deport “criminal illegal immigrants” within one hour of being sworn in.