Donald Trump said Thursday he will prioritize building a wall on the Mexican border and deporting “bad dudes” before deciding what to do with the remaining millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he’d authorize law enforcement to actively deport “the bad dudes,” such as those who have committed crimes, starting on his first day in office.
He put heavy emphasis on building “a wall that absolutely works.”
“After that we’re going to see what happens,” Trump said.
Trump has faced mounting questions this week after a series of statements from himself and top aides offering mixed and at times seemingly contradictory views on his stance on deportation.
In an interview earlier this week with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Trump said there may be a “softening” of laws, indicating that he has come to sympathize with families who have lived in the U.S. illegally for years.
“I don’t think it’s a softening. I’ve had people say it’s a hardening, actually,” Trump said on CNN.
Trump told Cooper that there would be no path to legalization unless an undocumented immigrant leaves the country and then returns through legal channels.
“When they come back in, then they can start paying taxes, but there is no path to legalization unless they leave the country and then come back,” Trump said.
Trump, who has previously called for a deportation force to remove the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, backed away from the idea of swift mass deportations.
“You keep saying 11 million. You don’t know what the number is,” Trump told Cooper, suggesting the figure could be as high as 30 million “or it could be 5 [million].”
“You know it’s a process, you can’t take 11 [million]at one time and just say, ‘Boom, you’re done,’” he said.
Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway made waves on Sunday, when she said the idea of a deportation force was “to be determined.”
Cooper asked whether Trump would deport someone who has lived in the country for peacefully for 15 years.
“There is a very good chance the answer could be yes,” Trump responded. “We’re going to see what happens.”
“We’re going to see what happens once we strengthen up our border,” he added.
Some have likened Trump’s latest comments on immigration to that of more moderate Republicans such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Bush slammed Trump as a “typical politician” on Thursday, “where you get in front of one crowd and say one thing, and then say something else to another crowd that may want to hear a different view.”
“Jeb Bush wasn’t building a wall, Jeb Bush wasn’t making strong borders,” Trump told CNN, pushing back on comparisons to his former primary rival.
“There’s no legalization, there’s no amnesty,” Trump insisted.