WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump might want to build a wall along the Mexican border, but he doesn’t know what he wants to do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. Trump came under immense fire in June after he described Mexican immigrants as being criminals and rapists -- and maybe some good people -- in his presidential launch speech.
Speaking Thursday at a news conference in Laredo, Texas, Trump was asked what he would do about undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. The future of such people has been at the heart of much of the immigration debate for years. Trump refused to offer an opinion. Instead, he insisted that securing the border is the first order of priority. “After that we're going to have plenty of time to talk about it,” Trump said when asked for a second time.
Piecing together Trump’s policy positions can be difficult. He hasn’t laid out a comprehensive policy position yet. Or released a white paper like some candidates have. Anyone hoping to pin down the real estate mogul on a particular point will find that his past statements show him taking incomplete stands on many issues -- including immigration policy.
The most hard-line opponents of immigration reform have called for deporting most of the undocumented immigrants already in the country. And then there are those who admit that ousting 11 million people isn’t realistic -- but insist that no steps be taken that would impart citizenship benefits on them.
The Republicans who have supported some type of status for the undocumented -- either visas or a pathway to citizenship -- have come under staunch criticism from the right wing of their party. They are frequently criticized as backing amnesty, which has practically become a vulgar word in some conservative circles. And it’s long been assumed that it’s the hard-liners who are rallying behind Trump.
At the border news conference, Trump appeared with Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz -- a Democrat -- and City Manager Jesus Olivares -- who didn’t appear to agree with some of Trump’s positions. In fact, Olivares said that the city does not support building a wall along the Mexican border.
“We don’t think that’s necessary at this time,” Olivares said. “I think there are other ways we can work together with the federal government.”
Other Texas Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, were critical of Saenz and Olivares for participating in the news conference.
.@MayorPeteSaenz Donald Trump just used you and the other councilmembers to make him look good. Embarrassing for South Texas and Hispanics.
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) July 23, 2015
Trump even appeared to hedge a bit on his vow to build a wall -- for which he previously insisted he could make Mexico foot the bill. When asked again if he still wants to build the wall, he said “in certain sections you have to have a wall.”
He repeated his insistence that Hispanics are going to back his candidacy for president. “I’ll bring the jobs back, and you know the Hispanics are going to get those jobs and they're going to love Trump and they already do,” he said. “They weren’t insulted because the press misinterprets my words.”