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Trump’s Immigration Town Hall: New Language, Same Policy

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Last night, during a Fox News town hall hosted by Sean Hannity, Donald Trump tried to reboot his outreach to moderate voters – or, as the Washington Post phrases it today, “counter the view of many that he is ‘racist.’”

While some media assessments assert Trump is pivoting on policy, we beg to differ. Trump did not break new policy ground last night. Instead, he used new words to describe his current stance (see below for how to understand the new soundbites).

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“What he used to say crudely, Donald Trump is now saying in focus-group tested language. The new framing is designed to cynically repackage the same radical policy to make it sound more mainstream to wavering white voters. For example, hardliners in the immigration debate shy away from the term ‘mass deportation’ because they know it’s deeply unpopular with most voters. So they say, ‘we have to enforce the laws that exist, and do so aggressively.’ Sound familiar? Both result in millions of deportations, even though they sound very different to the uninformed.

So why are Trump and his new team doing this? It has very little to do with Latino and immigrant voters. After 15 months of racist insults, Trump is deservedly on track for a historic low performance with those voters. Instead, his new campaign team wants to shift the rhetoric – not the policy – in hopes of fooling more moderate GOP voters into believing he is not the racist that has been on display since day one of his campaign. Will it work? We think not. We believe that most voters will come to see this as a politically-motivated PR gesture. Trump’s nativist base does, which is why they are not screaming.”

Below, we offer a brief explainer of the most relevant sections of Trump’s immigration town hall last night and what he actually is proposing, in his own words:

Who will Donald Trump deport?

Criminals: “The first thing we are going to do if and when I win, we are going to get rid of all of the bad ones. We have gang members, we have killers. We have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country. We are going to get them out.”

People who overstay visas: “You have to get them out. You have to get them out.”

Other undocumented immigrants: “As far as everybody else, we are going to go through the process. What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country. Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. I’m going to do the same thing and I said that. We want to do it in a very humane manner.”

Will he consider changing the law to “accommodate those people that contribute to society” (as Hannity asked it)?

“We have some great, great people in this country. But we’re going to follow the laws of this country. What people don’t realize, we have very, very strong laws.”

In sum, this is Donald Trump’s immigration position:

Build a wall along the US-Mexico border: “100%”

End DACA and DAPA, policies that were created to apply current law in a more “humane” way

Deport criminals and visa overstayers

Apply current law to everyone else (and current law is deportation)

“No amnesty,” meaning nothing but deportation for those in the U.S. without status.

No softening there.