Three days after Trump’s campaign first hinted it was reconsidering walking back from a core campaign promise, the answer still isn’t clear.
Trump had long promised to identify and remove the estimated 11 million immigrants already living in the United States illegally. He has called for a “deportation force” to do this, and notably praised a controversial Eisenhower administration-era program called “Operation Wetback,” which deported up to 1.5 million people from the United States.
But on Fox News Monday night, Trump appeared to walk back his praise for that initiative. “I don’t agree with that. I’m not talking about detention centers,” Trump said. “We are going to get rid of the bad ones. The bad ones will be out of here fast.”
Trump wouldn’t say directly whether he was rethinking his mass deportation strategy, saying, “I just want to follow the law.”
“The first thing we’re going to do is going to, if and when I win, is we’re going to get rid of all of the bad ones — we got gang members, we have killers, we have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country. We’re going to get them out.”
Trump compared his approach to deportations authorized by Presidents Obama and Bush. “As far as everybody else, we’re 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,” Trump continued. “Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m going to do the same thing.”