Trump trying to clear up immigration view

Jill Colvin
Associated Press

Jersey City, N.J. — It’s been the driving issue of Donald Trump’s campaign. Build a wall along the southern border. Make Mexico pay for it. And expel everyone living in the U.S. illegally with the help of a “deportation force.”

Ten weeks before the election, however, buffeted by conflicting advice from aides and advisers, Trump has seemed to be in full indecision mode.

At a Fox News town hall tall taping last week, in the face of pressing questions, he proceeded to poll the audience at length on the fate of an estimated 11 million people.

Trump is now planning a major speech on Wednesday, during which he’s expected to finally clarify his stance. Supporters are hoping for a strong, decisive showing. But for critics, many already disposed to vote against him, his wavering on what has been his signature issue, seems like a warning that he’s unable to handle a central element of any president’s job — making decisions.

It also underscores how little his Republican campaign has invested in the nitty gritty of outlining what he would do as president, especially when compared with the more detailed plans of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

“It’s just puzzling,” said Lanhee Chen, who has served as a policy adviser to several Republican presidential candidates. “This is the issue on which he rose to prominence in the primary and the issue on which he continues to stake much of his campaign.”

From the start, Trump has never been the kind of candidate to pore over thick policy books.

Indeed, he has mocked Clinton on the subject.

“She’s got people that sit in cubicles writing policy all day. Nothing’s ever going to happen. It’s just a waste of paper,” he told Time Magazine in June.

Until recently, however, there has been no doubt about where Trump stood on illegal immigration. The wall was going up — Mexico would have to pay — and those estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally were going to have to leave.

But over the summer, Trump began suggesting in closed-door conversations with Hispanic leaders that he might be open to softening his immigration stance.

Trump’s supporters say questions about his recent waffling are overblown. His running mate, Mike Pence, describes him as “a CEO at work” as he consults with various stakeholders.