Donald Trump’s plans for undocumented immigrants took another turn on Sunday, when one of his top advisers told CNN that Trump’s recent aggressive talk may not be as draconic as it literally sounds.
Until last Wednesday, Trump seemed to have been softening his stance on undocumented immigrants and mass deportations over the previous few weeks. He began to make pitches to minority voters, and on August 20 he formed a National Hispanic Advisory Council with Latino leaders. On August 23, he even told Sean Hannity of Fox News that he was easing up: “There certainly can be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” Trump said.
But then Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto contradicted Trump after their meeting last Wednesday, saying he told Trump that Mexico would not pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border soon after Trump had said that the two hadn’t discussed the issue.
Trump’s apparent softening was short-lived: using an immigration policy speech in Arizona to clarify his views, he came out with a tough 10-point anti-illegal immigration plan. “In a Trump Administration, all immigration laws will be enforced,” he said, seeming to imply that all undocumented immigrants would be deported. “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation—that is what it means to have laws and to have a country.”
And he added with the claim—penciled into the speech at the last minute, according to The Wall Street Journal—that, “On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border…and Mexico will pay for that wall.”
This tough stance angered many voters (and caused several members of his National Hispanic Advisory Council to reconsider their membership) and Geoff Colvin wrote here in Fortune that “The clarification will likely be clarified.”
It appears that he was correct, as now that toughening seems to be softening again, after a Sunday appearance by Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor, on CNN’s State of the Union.
Trump really doesn’t want mass deportations, Giuliani explained to host Jake Tapper. Trump, he said, “would find it very, very difficult to throw out a family that has been here for 15 years and they have three children, two of whom are citizens. That is not the kind of America he wants.”
“These 10 policies are largely directed to criminal, illegal immigrants,” Giuliani said to a surprised-looking Tapper.
“So, Mr. Trump will not be trying to kick out the Dreamers?” Tapper asked in a reference to a 2012 Obama order that allowed illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children to remain in the U.S. and work without fear of deportation. “He will not be having a deportation force? And he no longer wants to get all 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the country?”
“What he said in the speech is after we secure the border, and after we remove the criminal illegal immigrants,” Giuliani said. “[T]hen and only then can we look at this is very rational way where we can look at all the options and be open to all the options.”
While Giuliani’s claims may do more to confuse than clear up the issue of what exactly Trump believes, Giuliani did offer an explanation that explained why Trump claimed that he hadn’t talked about the wall with Peña Nieto, while Peña Nieto claimed they indeed had: Both were right.
According to Giuliani, who was present at their meeting, Peña Nieto brought up the wall but Giuliani cut him off with ‘That’s not on the table,’ because the candidates’ teams had agreed not to discuss the issue so that the Mexican president and GOP candidate could have a friendly meeting free of unpleasant subjects.
“We had ground rules for this meeting. One of the ground rules was we were not going to discuss paying for the wall, because that’s not something we’re going to agree about,” Giuliani said on State of the Union. “Maybe the president’s staff didn’t brief him on it, maybe the president forgot it, but, I mean, he brought it up.”