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Trump campaign backs off deportation policy

In a Monday night TV appearance, a campaign spokesperson would only say that Trump planned to deport immigrants who have committed crimes, not all 11 million undocumented.
22 Ago 2016 – 11:39 PM EDT
The Trump' campaign's new spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, on Fox News, Aug 22 2016

The presidential campaign of U.S. Republican nominee Donald Trump appeared to take another step back from its aggressive immigration policy on Monday when campaign manager Kellyanne Conway declined to say the candidate would deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Asked about Trump's previously announced plan to create a "deportation force," Conway told Fox's Megyn Kelly that Trump wanted to make sure "we are fair to everyone." Conway would not specify how many people that applied to, confirming only "he will deport those who have absolutely committed a crime."

Conway said Trump had postponed an immigration speech scheduled for Denver on Thursday saying the candidate wanted to seek more advice. "Immigration's a very complex issue," adding that it was important "to get the solutions right, to come out with your specific plan should not be rushed."

Trump was "taking in the wisdom of many different counselors on this issue," she said. Conway did confirm however that Trump still planned to build a wall between Mexico and the United States.

When pressed on whether Trump had changed his deportation policy, Conway insisted the candidate had not shifted his two-pronged strategy of securing U.S. borders and strictly enforcing immigration laws. "If we actually enforce our immigration laws a lot of this would start to really change," she said.

On Monday Trump assured voters that he is not flip-flopping on his deportation plans after he met with a group of conservative Hispanic leaders on Saturday in New York, where several sources who attended say he outlined plans to announce a major shift on immigration policy.

"I'm not flip-flopping," Trump said Monday morning during an interview on Fox & Friends. "We want to come up with a really fair but firm answer."

The New York property tycoon's promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico and deport all undocumented immigrants was a cornerstone of his primary campaign. But according to three people who attended a meeting between the candidate and Hispanic leaders on Saturday, Trump will present an immigration plan that will include finding a way to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.

Trump told the group he would announce a plan to grant legal status "that wouldn't be citizenship but would allow them to be here without fear of deportation," said Jacob Monty, a Texas immigration lawyer who attended the meeting.

The campaign has so far not provided details of the plan.

A possible reversal over immigration policy by the Republican candidate would not be without precedent after Trump has shifted his position on a variety of issues during his campaign from banning Muslims to taxes, minimum wages and abortion.

Polls show Trump has alienated many minority voters and Republican Party strategists have urged him to tone down his rhetoric about immigrants, especially Hispanics who make up a growing share of registered voters - about 10%.

Some prominent Trump supporters defended the apparent shift over deportation of all undocumented immigrants. "No good leader is not flexible ... it's important to be flexible and to listen and learn and when you learn something, to change," pro-Trump commentator Kayleigh McEnany told CNN, responding to Conway's remarks.

After meeting with the Hispanic leaders on Saturday, McEnany said it "sounds like they came ot an understanding that the over-riding principle of his campaign, which is border security, will remain the same, but this [deportation] is where there needs to be a change. He evolved where he needed to evolve."

Trump critics have reacted with skepticism to his advocacy of a more humane immigration policy.

"Since day one of his presidential campaign, Trump has made nativism the centerpiece of his campaign. He has insulted and dehumanized immigrants and Latinos in America and is now hurtling towards a historic low performance among Latino voters this November," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant rights group.