Donald Trump told Fox News on Monday he wants to have a “firm, but fair” stance on illegal immigration, amid signs the Republican presidential nominee may be rethinking his approach on the hot-button campaign issue.
Trump’s newly installed campaign team has suggested in recent days possible changes in the candidate’s tough immigration proposals. The nominee had been scheduled to deliver a speech on the topic Thursday in Colorado, but has postponed it.
In an interview Monday night on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” Trump said: "I just want to follow the law.”
"The first thing we're gonna do, if and when I win, is we're gonna get rid of all of the bad ones. We've got gang members, we have killers, we have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country. We're gonna get them out," he said.
"As far as everybody else, we're going to go through the process," he said, while citing the policies of President Obama and former President George W. Bush as examples.
“I’m going to do the same thing. We’re going to do it in a humane manner,” Trump said, adding that the “bad ones” are known by law enforcement.
Asked whether Trump's plan still included a deportation force, his new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said Sunday it was "to be determined."
"Even Sen. Jeff Sessions," a hard-liner on immigration, "he doesn't deport 11 million people in his plan," Conway said on CNBC.
There have been signs for weeks now that Trump may be shifting course. Hispanic business and religious leaders who would like to see Trump move in a more inclusive direction have reported closed-door conversations with Trump in which they say he has signaled possibly embracing a less punitive immigration policy that focuses on "compassion" along with the rule of law.
At last month's GOP convention, the Republican National Committee's director of Hispanic communications, Helen Aguirre Ferre, told reporters at a Spanish-language briefing that Trump had already said he "will not do massive deportations" — despite the fact that Trump had never said so publicly.
Instead, Aguirre Ferre said, "he will focus on removing the violent undocumented who have criminal records and live in the country."
Indeed, Trump's first television ad of the general election specifically singles out illegal immigrants with criminal records, claiming that, if Clinton is elected, "Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay."
Trump's campaign has pushed back on the notion that he's reversing course. "Mr. Trump said nothing today that he hasn't said many times before, including in his convention speech," rapid response director Steven Cheung said after the meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.