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The Softening: Analyzing Trump's Latest Immigration Stance

I'll let our own Matt Vespa and our HotAir cousin Allahpundit take the lead in filling you in on the latest iteration of Trump's immigration stance. But to recap, over the past few weeks, Trump and company have (a) promised a 'softening' on his proposals vis-a-vis mass deportations of non-criminal illegal immigrants, (b) suggested that this shift might be considered a "hardening" of his stance, (c) delivered a red meat speech in Arizona, (d) appeared to rule out a path to legalization, (e) hinted that more softening was on the way, and now (f) seems to be revising that last point. If I'm following this ever-moving target correctly, it looks like Trump is stressing border security and the deportation of felons first, but is now floating the idea that non-criminal illegal immigrants who only want legal status -- but not citizenship -- might be offered an avenue to achieve that goal without leaving the country first:


When asked if some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants could stay, Trump replied, It could be but what’s going to happen is if you’re going to be a citizen, you’re going to leave and you’re going to have to come back.” Muir followed up, asking about undocumented immigrants who did not want to become citizens of the U.S. “They have to make a determination what happens when the border is secure,” Trump said. “So you’re open to them staying here undocumented?” Muir asked. “I’m going to make a decision, or somebody will. Whether it’s me or somebody else because by that time we’ll have a secure border, we’ll have a wall,” Trump said.

Not exactly ironclad stuff, but perhaps he's finally hitting something of a sweet spot.  Trump can credibly tell his base (which is the most likely group to forgive or embrace some form of immigration mitigation according to a recent Fox News poll) that the tough border enforcement stuff is still very much at the top of his immigration priority list, while assuring reticent Republicans and some independents that he's not going to be rounding up millions of people in boxcars, as the attack line goes.  Prioritizing border security and internal enforcement, focusing on giving the boot to illegal immigrants who have committed subsequent crimes, and holding open a streamlined path to legalization, but not citizenship, is...well, the Jeb Bush position.  And now, apparently, the Trump position.  Incidentally, it's totally reasonable to wonder if Trump's answers to David Muir amount to anything more permanent than the latest blurting from a mercurial candidate -- but here's his far more disciplined campaign manager sounding similarly ambiguous and softening-ish over the weekend:


I'll leave you with our Kelly File discussion from last night, in which Chris Stirewalt advised Trump to stop talking so much about the issue altogether, and I wondered aloud whether analyzing the GOP nominee's "policies" is a fool's errand, given his proclivity to slide and shift without warning:

Hillary Clinton has vowed to carry on President Obama's immigration policy, but with even more executive power grabs.

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