US ELECTIONS 2016

Trump campaign hints at softer stance on immigration

Anti-Trump demonstrators in Cleveland on July 19 reenacting their displeasure with Mr Trump's vow to build a wall on the US-Mexico border to keep Mexican immigrants out.
Anti-Trump demonstrators in Cleveland on July 19 reenacting their displeasure with Mr Trump's vow to build a wall on the US-Mexico border to keep Mexican immigrants out. PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST/JABIN BOTSFORD

Analysts view this as an attempt to appeal to more moderate voters

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may be softening his stance on his immigration policy of deporting 11 million illegal immigrants - the latest in a string of attempts to expand his voter base.

After a shake-up of his campaign's top aides last week, he expressed "regret" over certain things he had said during his campaign and also reached out to black voters while he was on the campaign trail.

On Sunday, new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway seemed to waver on Mr Trump's hardline immigration policy.

Pressed on whether the candidate would carry out his plan to have a deportation force to remove undocumented immigrants living in the United States, Ms Conway told CNN it was "to be determined".

While some analysts have dismissed this as the most recent flip- flop in the Trump campaign, others wonder if this is the start of Mr Trump's rehabilitation for the general election and if it will stick.

FAIR AND HUMANE

What (Trump) supports is to make sure that we enforce the law, that we are respectful of those Americans who are looking for well-paying jobs, and that we are fair and humane for those who live among us in this country. ''

NEW CAMPAIGN MANAGER KELLYANNE CONWAY, when pressed on Mr Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy.

But while his campaign tries to appeal to more moderate voters, it remains careful not to alienate its own voter base.

"What (Trump) supports is to make sure that we enforce the law, that we are respectful of those Americans who are looking for well-paying jobs, and that we are fair and humane for those who live among us in this country," said Ms Conway. "As the weeks unfold, he will lay out the specifics of that plan," she added.

Mr Trump is expected to deliver a speech on immigration policy on Thursday in Colorado - considered one of the battleground states.

Doubt was also cast on his immigration stance when US news outlets picked up on a Buzzfeed report which said he met his newly-formed Hispanic advisory panel on Saturday.

During the discussion in New York, Mr Trump reportedly spoke about a "humane and efficient" way to deal with the immigration issue.

He has accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists and criminals, and he has vowed to build a wall on the US-Mexico border to keep them out.

In response to those developments, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta said: "Trump's immigration plan remains the same as it's always been - tear apart families and deport 16 million people from the United States.

"One need not look any further for confirmation than Donald Trump's own words and the TV ad released on Friday that's being lauded by white supremacists."

Mr Trump's first general election advertisement says that in Mrs Clinton's America, "illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay, collecting social security benefits, skipping the line".

Mr Trump yesterday denied a change, telling Fox News: "I'm not flip-flopping. We want to come up with a really fair, but firm, answer."

Experts think, however, that any effort to present a more moderate image might be too little, too late.

"It's time to finally put the 'pivot' story to rest. It simply isn't going to happen and if it does, it won't work," said associate professor of political science Daniel Franklin from Georgia State University. "The Trump campaign is a runaway train."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2016, with the headline 'Trump campaign hints at softer stance on immigration'. Print Edition | Subscribe