Did Donald Trump Just Flip-Flop On Immigration?

Donald Trump stampeded his way through 16 other Republican primary opponents by staking out the strongest stance on securing our border.

But now, he is in the general election where he trails Hillary Clinton four to five points, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

And now some are accusing him of softening his proposals on immigration. But is he?

Trump has indicated he is willing to moderate his message.

Much of this revolves around Trump’s previous support for “mass deportation” of the 11 million — some say 20 or 30 million — illegal immigrants already living in the country.

CBS News reports:

“There could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” Trump said to Fox News commentator Sean Hannity in a town hall that aired on Tuesday night on “Hannity.” “We have some great people in this country. We have some great, great people in this country but we’re going to follow the laws of this country and what people don’t realize — we have very, very strong laws.”

His answer was in response to a question from Hannity about whether Trump would be willing to change laws to accommodate undocumented immigrants who had committed no crimes, apart from their immigration violation.

But Trump stood firm on his “enforcement first” message.

At a rally in Tampa, he once again outlined tough enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.

The Miami Herald reports:

“Hillary Clinton wants a totally open border. We are going to enforce our laws, remove people who overstay their visas,” he promised a boisterous crowd at the Florida State Fairgrounds. “Hillary Clinton would rather give a job to an illegal immigrant than to an unemployed Hispanic citizen, an unemployed African-American citizen, or even to a veteran…”

 …“I am going to suspend immigration wherever effective screening cannot take place and I am going to institute a new ideological screening program to keep out people who don’t share our values,” said Trump, frequently veering from the script on his TelePrompter. “You mark my words, I’ve been very good at predicting things…. Bad, bad things are going to be happening with these people pouring into our country…”

 “…Oh, we’re going to build a wall, don’t you worry about it!” he said to cheers. “We’re going to build a wall, and Mexico is going to pay for the wall 100 percent. And it’s going to be a big wall, it’s going to be a real wall. It’s going to be as beautiful as a wall can be, but it’s going to be a wall. And we’re going to have protection for tunnels.”

In an interview on CNN’s “New Day” program, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway reiterated Trump’s opposition to sanctuary cities and echoed his enforcement first policies.

The Hill reports:

Donald Trump‘s campaign manager on Thursday sought to clarify that the candidate does not support “amnesty,” “sanctuary cities” or “open borders” after the GOP presidential nominee used softer language in a series of statements on immigration.

“It is this week what it’s always been. No amnesty, no sanctuary cities so that innocent victims like Kate Steinle, who was murdered right in front of her father in San Francisco over a year ago … by a man who had been deported five times,” Kellyanne Conway said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Trump hasn’t flip-flopped.

He has de-emphasized his deportation proposal, which even immigration hardliners always figured was unrealistic.

Senator Jeff Sessions — who led the fight against the Gang of Eight amnesty bill — said he could be supportive of Trump’s immigration stance.

Politico reports:

“The most important thing is to focus first and foremost on a lawful system that protects the interests of the American people first. If you enter the country unlawfully, you’re subject to being deported. That’s just what the law has always been. But we have a large number of people that have been here a very long time,” Sessions told “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning.

 Sessions offered his interpretation of Trump’s policy as one that would still fix the immigration system first “and then we’ll wrestle with the people who have been here a long time.”

“You can get on board with that?” co-host Brian Kilmeade asked.

Sessions responded, “Oh, yeah, I can be supportive of that,” while warning that Trump should focus on the rule of the law before dealing with longtime undocumented residents.

Most Americans are willing to discuss what to do about the 11 million illegal immigrants living in America — but only after the border is secured and they can trust Congress has put a stop to illegal immigration once and for all.

If Trump can stick to his enforcement first message, he can tamp down media speculation and drive a narrative on immigration that has the support of the American people.

But some critics do note that the Trump campaign allowed the media to run away with a story of Trump radically altering his positions by not clearly articulating that he is standing by his rule-of-law and secure the border message.

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