Does Trump Support a Path to Legal Status?

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump has made immigration a key focus of his campaign. And while many feel that he has done more harm than good with his offensive comments about Mexican illegal immigrants, as Paul has covered, Trump’s rhetoric related to legal immigration, while perhaps not as entertaining, has been much more sensible. In Arizona earlier this month, Trump argued for making the legal immigration system “easier and faster.

Recently, while appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump elaborated further on his stance on legal immigration. According to a Washington Times report, Trump says he plans to be harsh on immigrants who have committed crimes and intends to send them back to where they emigrated from:

“Well, the first thing we do is take the bad ones of which there are, unfortunately, quite a few,” he said. “We take the bad ones and get ‘em the hell out. We get ‘em out. We give ‘em back to Mexico or we make sure they stay — or where they come from. Because they don’t all come from Mexico. They come from other places. They use that border but they come from other places. We get ‘em out and get ‘em out fast. And we get ‘em out permanently. That’s a big thing.”

However, Trump also addressed the majority of immigrants who, while coming here illegally, have been hardworking and otherwise law-abiding. Trump said that he believes in a merit-based system for dealing with illegal immigrants who have come to the United States and “done a good job” but are forced to live in the shadows:

“Then the other ones — and I’m a very big believer in merit system,” he said. “I have to tell you … some of these people have been here, they’ve done a good job. You know, in some cases, sadly, they’ve been living under the shadows, etc., etc. We have to do something. So whether it’s merit or whether it’s whatever, but I’m a believer in the merit system. If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out. But before we do anything, we have to secure the border because the border is like having no border.”

Does Trump’s merit system entail a path to legal status? These recent comments would seem to suggest so, but it’s not entirely clear. If Trump is serious about winning the Hispanic vote, however, a clear plan for handling immigration, outside of building a wall, would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Joshua Pinho works for American Principles in Action.