Merit-based migrants: Is Donald Trump softening on illegal immigration?
Donald Trump's latest stance on immigration reform suggests that he wants a merit-based system to allow more "outstanding" individuals to remain in the country.
“If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out.”
This doesn’t sound like something Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would say about illegal immigrants. But that’s exactly what he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Friday.
Trump proposed a “merit system” to deal with illegal immigrants in the US now, saying “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.”
However, he hasn’t completely deviated from his earlier statements: “But before we do anything, we have to secure the border,” he said.
His plan is to “take the bad ones – of which there are, unfortunately, quite a few” and “give ‘em back” to where they come from. “We get ‘em out and get ‘em out fast. And we get ‘em out permanently,” Trump said, according to the National Journal.
Bloomberg News noted “Trump did not say whether he would support a path to citizenship, which many Republicans oppose as amnesty.”
Earlier in his campaign, Trump claimed illegal Mexican immigrants brought drugs, crime and rapists to the US.
Although Trump has spoken extensively about immigration, he has “shed little light on his actual plans for dealing with illegal immigration beyond generalizations that have often seemed far-fetched,” CNN said.
He recently recommended the US build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.
According to The Hill, the GOP has denounced Trump for incendiary comments, leading Trump to consider running as an independent or third-party candidate. But Trump generally toes the Republican line in terms of advocating for stricter border security and rejecting amnesty.
He recently stressed he is a “conservative” and wants to run as a Republican, the National Journal reports.
Trump's latest comments echo statements made by the Republican National Committee, which also endorsed the idea of a “merit system […] that focuses on the needs of United States employers and matches the economic and cultural attributes that each immigrant possesses to those needs” in a 2012 resolution.
Last year, GOP leaders released a set of immigration principles that stated illegal immigrants “could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program.”
The Senate passed a bill in 2013, which offered hope to millions of illegal immigrants.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona told The Associated Press, among other requirements, “those seeking legal status after living in the United States illegally must "pass a background check, make good on any tax liability and pay a fee and a fine."
Presidential candidate Sen Marco Rubio, (R) of Florida, also floated the idea of a merit-based immigration system, according to an interview he did last year with CNS.
But Senator Rubio also acknowledged the challenges associated with enforcing such an initiative:
“You have 12 million human beings living in the United States that are here illegally […] on the one hand, there is no serious effort out there that you’re going to round up 12 million people. But how do you figure out who those 12 million people are, which ones get to stay, and which ones get to leave, and those that are going to get to stay, what sort of consequences will there be for violating the law?”