GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump appears to have flip-flopped on yet another issue, and this one may sting his base: immigration. Even Ann Coulter is starting to squirm at Trump signaling that he is abandoning his hardline stance on the issue.
Like on most issues, Trump has been all over the map on immigration. Here is a full timeline of his various immigration positions.
1999/2000: Trump is a hardliner on immigration.
In 1999, Trump was preparing himself for a possible presidential run as a candidate of the Reform Party, and at the time he had this to say on immigration: "I'm opposed to new people coming in. We have to take care of the people who are here.''
Trump's 1999 stance on immigration was echoed in his book The America We Deserve, which was released in 2000.
"The majority of legal immigrants can often make significant contributions to our society because they have special skills and because they add to our nation’s cultural diversity," Trump wrote. "They come with the best of intentions. But legal immigrants do not and should not enter easily. It’s a long, costly, draining, and often frustrating experience-by design.
"I say to legal immigrants: Welcome and good luck."
2011: Trump calls for strengthening the border, but thinks that some illegals can stay, as should foreign students.
In 2011, Trump's book Time To Get Tough was released, in which he wrote that he was "impressed with the success of the double- and triple-layered fence in places like Yuma, Arizona."
"We need to be ready to build other kinds of fences, too," Trump wrote. "The point is that properly built walls work. We just need the political will to finish the job. And by the way, finishing the job will employ a lot of construction workers. Moreover, I call on Congress and the president to hire another 25,000 border patrol agents and give them the aerial equipment they need, such as Predator drones, to provide real-time aerial reconnaissance information to agents guarding the border wall."
However, Trump said in an interview with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly that year that some illegals should be deported, others could stay.
"You’re going to have to look at the individual people," Trump said, adding that it will "take a long time and a lot of people" to fully determine who stays and who leaves.
Trump's book also suggested that foreign students should be allowed to stay in the U.S.
"Foreign students come over to our colleges, learn everything there is to learn about physics, finance, mathematics, and computers, and graduate with honors," Trump wrote. "They would love to stay in this country, but we don't allow them to. We immediately ship them back to their country to use all of the knowledge they learned at the best colleges in the United States back in their country rather than keep it here in ours."
Later on the book, Trump called for the students to stay, writing: "Wouldn't it be better if we invited foreign student graduating from our colleges to stay to build American companies, instead of foreign companies that will be wreaking havoc against Boeing, Caterpillar, and many other of our great American companies in the future?"
2012: Trump bashes 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney from the left on immigration and calls for some sort of amnesty.
Shortly after the 2012 election, Trump was interviewed by Ronald Kessler and railed against Romney's "mean-spirited" proposal of "self-deportation" to deal with illegals. He also hinted that the Republicans needed to embrace a form of amnesty: (emphasis added)
“He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”
The GOP has to develop a comprehensive policy “to take care of this incredible problem that we have with respect to immigration, with respect to people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country,” Trump says.
The bolded section, particularly the part about "people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country," is a clear implication of support for amnesty.
March 2013: Trump declares that GOP's attempts to pass amnesty is a "suicide mission." In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference that year, Trump warned that amnesty would be the death knell of the Republican Party.
"The fact is 11 million people will be voting Democratic. You can be out front. You can be the spearhead. You can do whatever you want to do, but every one of those 11 million people will be voting Democratic," Trump said. "It is just the way it works."
August 2013: Trump flat out supports amnesty if the border is secure.
Congress must protect our borders first. Amnesty should be done only if the border is secure and illegal immigration has stopped.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013
Turns out his stance against amnesty earlier that year didn't last long. It's also worth noting that Trump didn't lift a finger against the Gang of Eight bill, and funded five of the eight members.
June 2015: Trump announces his candidacy and delivers his now infamous speech against illegal immigration.
"I will build a great, great wall on our southern border," Trump pledged. "And I will have Mexico pay for that wall."
He also railed against immigrants from Mexico.
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," Trump said. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
The main takeaway from his announcement speech was that Trump would be the person to finally secure the border and crack down on illegal immigration. However...
July 2015: Trump expresses support for certain illegals to stay.
"I’m a very big believer in the merit system," Trump said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "Some of these people have been here, they’ve done a good job. You know, in some cases, sadly, they've been living under the shadows. If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out."
The "living under the shadows" line has been used by amnesty advocates to justify their support for the policy for years.
November 2015: Trump's son Eric reveals that his father is in favor of "touchback" amnesty.
"The point isn’t just deporting them, it’s deporting them and letting them back in legally," Eric Trump said in an interview on Fox and Friends. "He’s been so clear about that and I know the liberal media wants to misconstrue it, but it’s deporting them and letting them back legally."
American Enterprise Institute's Marc Thiessen pointed to an earlier interview where Trump himself called for "an expedited way of" of allowing illegals to come back into the country legally after being deported.
"This is a policy called 'touchback' and it was first proposed in 2007 by moderate Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas)," wrote Thiessen. "She offered a 'touchback' amendment on the Senate floor that would have required illegal immigrants to return to their home countries to apply for a special “Z visa” that would allow them to re-enter the United States in an expedited fashion and work here indefinitely."
Thiessen also noted that The New York Times editorial board reluctantly supported this measure, while National Review came out against it.
Andrew McCarthy later wrote at PJ Media that this likely meant that Trump would eventually come out in favor of amnesty altogether; McCarthy's words have proven to be prescient.
Also in November 2015: Trump comes out in favor of mass deportations.
Trump explained his reasoning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, citing former President Dwight Eisenhower's "Operation Wetback" of deporting more than a million illegals.
"You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely," Trump said. "Look, we have to do what we have to do, and Ike did it and other people have done it."
December 2015: Trump announces a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
"Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred [of Americans by members of the Muslim world] is beyond comprehension," Trump said in a statement on his website. "Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it faces, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life."
The Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro explained why this was a terrible policy here.
June 2016: Trump flips on mass deportations.
"I would not call it mass deportations," Trump responded when asked at his Scotland golf course if he would follow through on his call for mass deportations.
July 2016: Trump backtracks on the Muslim ban. Trump modified his proposal to temporary bans from particular Islamic countries that are essentially terrorist breeding grounds instead of an entire ban on a religion altogether. He tried to spin it as "an expansion."
August 2016: Trump is now suggesting he would offer legalization to illegals.
Trump tells Hannity in Part 2 of the townhall that there will be "no citizenship" but "they'll pay back taxes.": pic.twitter.com/ivbUfYa6F5— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) August 24, 2016
Which sounds a lot like...
So pay a fine, back of the line, normalize status. That's Rubio. That's Gang of Eight. What were we all telling you? https://t.co/YVrFhbQ4og— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) August 24, 2016