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Donald Trump Appears To Soften Position On Immigration


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is softening his insistence that millions of immigrants who are living in the United States illegally must be deported. He now suggests he might be willing to work with immigrants who've been in the country for a long time and have avoided trouble with the law. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Donald Trump has drawn a hard line against illegal immigration since the first day of his campaign when he accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug carriers into the U.S. At a Fox News debate last November, he insisted millions must be deported.


DONALD TRUMP: We have no choice if we're going to run our country properly and if we're going to be a country.

TRUMP: Republican rivals mocked Trump's call for mass deportation as unrealistic and politically misguided, but many GOP primary voters embraced the idea as Trump boasted on MSNBC the following day.


TRUMP: So many people are in love with it. The loudest applause last night at the debate was when I said this. Even I was surprised, but I mean the place went wild.

HORSLEY: As he campaigns for the general election in November, though, Trump is facing a very different electorate. A survey by the Pew Research Center finds 3 out of 4 Americans view illegal immigrants as just as hardworking and honest as U.S. citizens. Trump told a town hall meeting on Fox News this week he's getting the message.


TRUMP: Really great, great people come up to me, and they've said, Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person that's been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and the family out - it's so tough, Mr. - I mean I have it all the time.

HORSLEY: Trump says he's still against creating a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, and he wants to deport those who commit crimes here, just as previous presidents have done. But Trump suggests others might be allowed to stay in the country with conditions.


TRUMP: They have to pay taxes. There's no amnesty as such. There's no amnesty.


TRUMP: But we work with them.

HORSLEY: In a telephone interview with CNN last night, Hillary Clinton cautioned voters not to be swayed by Trump's pre-election makeover.


HILLARY CLINTON: He's trying to do kind of a shuffle here, but I think we need to look at the entire context. We need to believe him when he bullies and threatens to throw out every immigrant in the country.

HORSLEY: Indeed, Trump's own position still seems unsettled. He used this week's town hall meeting on Fox as a kind of informal focus group.


TRUMP: Do we throw them out, or do we work with them and try and be...

HORSLEY: Trump is standing by other planks in his immigration platform, such as building a wall along the southern border and extreme vetting of newcomers from the Middle East. As for mass deportation, Trump told a roundtable of Latino leaders in New York this morning he'll be spelling out his policy in the next week or so. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

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