Yet the Republican presidential nominee didn’t offer any detail on whether he would abide by his primary-campaign pledge to install a “deportation force” to remove 11 million illegal immigrants from the country. Instead, he blamed the media for focusing on his old campaign promises instead of what he deemed more pressing issues.
“In recent days, the media—as it usually does—has missed the whole point on immigration,” Mr. Trump said. “All the media wants to talk about is the 11 million…that are here illegally.”
Mr. Trump said he would prefer not to discuss what would happen to undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed crimes.
“My priority is the well-being of 300 million American citizens, including millions of Hispanic citizens and legal residents who want a secure border, and I mean secure,” he said.
The latest twist in Mr. Trump’s immigration policy comes at the end of a week in which he appeared to have shifted his deportation policy, which helped drive his popularity in the GOP primary season. Mr. Trump, in Fox News interviews aired Tuesday and Wednesday, appeared to reverse himself, saying he wouldn’t seek to deport undocumented immigrants. Then on CNN on Thursday, he muddled the issue further, saying “there is a very good chance the answer could be ‘yes,’” he would deport them.
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Donald Trump's immigration plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. was a signature issue during the Republican primary. But since becoming the nominee, he has appeared to soften his call for mass deportation. Photo: Reuters
The Trump campaign in the last week has twice scheduled and then canceled speeches at which he was to articulate his immigration policy. Mr. Trump said on Fox News on Friday that he would deliver such a speech in the next two weeks.
The immigration issue has befuddled some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters in Iowa. Sen. Joni Ernst, a first-term Republican who hosted Mr. Trump at her hog roast-and-motorcycle ride fundraiser at the state fairgrounds here, said she wasn’t clear what Mr. Trump’s policy is on deportations.
“I don’t know (what it is), but I am excited about looking at what he’s proposing next week and I think that will be an important topic,” Ms. Ernst told reporters here Friday.
Steve Fisher, a retired corn and livestock farmer from near Ames who backed Mr. Trump in the state’s February caucuses, said at the fairgrounds Saturday that Mr. Trump’s policy shuffle on immigration is less important than his broader intention to secure the nation’s borders.
“Why shouldn’t he be allowed to change his mind?” said Mr. Fisher, who is 59 years old. “It doesn’t diminish my support for him because I still believe he’s on the right course of where we need to take this country.”
Mr. Trump told the audience gathered in a livestock pavilion that it is reporters and television networks, not him, that are being inconsistent about his policy proclamations.
“They take phrases and statements, chop them up, take them out of context and discuss them for days,” he said. “Always trying to demean and belittle me and our incredible movement to take our country back from the death spiral it is currently in.”
The candidate then laid out an ambitious plan for dealing with the subgroup of illegal immigrants that he now considers a priority.
“On day one, I am going to begin swiftly removing criminal illegal immigrants from this country,” he said. “We are going to get rid of the criminals, and it will happen within one hour” of his swearing-in.