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Frank Sharry: Trump Campaign’s Immigration Move is a Rhetorical Shift, Not a Policy Shift

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Goal is to Appeal to Suburban Voters While Maintaining Support from Nativists

The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, assessing the significance of Donald Trump’s latest immigration comments, delivered last night on “The O’Reilly Factor”:

“There is much talk about how Trump and his campaign are preparing to pivot on immigration. Color me skeptical. Trump’s comments to Bill O’Reilly last night strike us as more evidence of a cynical campaign attempt to shed the unpopular label of ‘mass deportation’ while maintaining the essence of that radical policy position.

With regards to undocumented immigrants living in America, Trump last night reiterated his plan to mass deport all the ‘bad guys … so fast your head will spin’ and, regarding the rest of the undocumented population, pledged to ‘go through the process … with the existing laws … perhaps with a lot more energy.’ That sure sounds to us like mass deportation with a smiley face slapped on top.

Our take remains that Trump and his new campaign leadership are attempting to cynically repackage a truly radical policy to make it more palatable to suburban white voters rightfully turned off by Trump’s explicit racism and nativism. But the underlying deportation-focused policy doesn’t seem to be evolving alongside the rhetorical tweaks. That’s because Trump is inextricably tied to his white nationalist base of support – his overt nativism is the beating heart of his campaign, and it’s our prediction that he will never cut the anti-immigrant diehards loose.

As a result, look for continued attempts from Trump and his flailing campaign to walk a rhetorical tightrope that tries to maintain support from his nativist base while clumsily attempting to sound mainstream. The fact that Trump canceled a major immigration policy speech set for Colorado and instead will keep focusing on scripted and friendly Fox News appearances to unveil his latest soundbites on immigration seems like more evidence that all the hullabaloo is about a marketing strategy for the same old mass deportation stance.

We should see what’s happening for what it is: a rhetorical shift, not a policy shift.”