The Founding Fathers were famously wary of mob rule, and Donald Trump brought their concerns to life rather literally on Wednesday when he polled the audience at a Fox News town hall to help decide whether he should forcibly eject 11 million people from the United States.
An impossibly tough stance on immigration – including an “ideological test,” a “deportation force,” and a big, beautiful border wall – has been the foundation of Trump’s campaign since day one. However, over the past few days he’s signaled that he’s not actually interested in deporting undocumented immigrants en mass. As New York’s Eric Levitz notes, no one has any idea what that means, because he’s described the new policy “solely through a series of contradictory adjectives.” All we know is that his new plan is “humane and efficient,” “very firm,” “really fair,” and “very, very tough.”
In the second half of his town hall meeting hosted by Sean Hannity, which aired Wednesday night, Trump essentially admitted that he’s been vague because there is no new immigration policy – at least, not yet.
When asked about how he’d handle someone who came to the country illegally but has been living here for 20 years and committed no other crimes, Trump said, “we have to follow the laws of our country.” When pressed to give a real answer, he turned to the audience. “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”
The audience responded with some incomprehensible cheering, and at Hannity’s urging, Trump posed the question again: “You have somebody that has been in the country for 20 years. He has done a great job, has a job, everything else, okay? Do we take him and the family — her or him or whatever — and send them out?”
Following more shouting, Trump said we can all agree that “the bad ones, the gang members,” have to go. But again, what about the person who’s been here for decades, “an upstanding person, the family is great, everyone is great … Do we throw them out or do we work with them?”
He gave the crowd two options: “Number one, we’ll say: throw out. Number two, we work with them.”
When Hannity tried to bring the focus back to what the candidate thinks, Trump said he’s definitely against citizenship. “Let me go a step further— they’ll pay back taxes, they have to pay
taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with
them,” he added. But as the Wall Street Journal notes, a path to legalization that includes paying back taxes is exactly what opponents of immigration reform are referring to when they complain about “amnesty.”
Trump then turned to the audience for a seventh and an eighth time, asking people whether or not they “want them thrown out.” Trump and Hannity praised one man who shouted that he wants illegal immigrants booted from the country. “Well, look, this is like a poll, this is like a poll,” Trump said. “And I love that guy that stood up and said — where is that guy? I love this guy. This is my guy.”
Trump concluded by promising, “We’re going to come out with a decision very soon,” and earlier in the day he said, “I’m going to announce something over the next two weeks, but it’s going to be a very firm policy.”
So really, this is just like Hillary Clinton’s “listening tour.” Except before asking for public input, Clinton “immersed herself in dense briefing papers and academic tomes,” and consulted hundreds of experts. And she started finalizing her detailed policy plans more than a year ago, not 77 days before the election.