Opinion writer

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

Over a year ago, Donald Trump released a hard-line immigration program, a 1,900-word plan. He also told us exactly what he wanted to do in an interview on “Meet the Press” on Aug. 16, 2015:

DONALD TRUMP:

The executive order gets rescinded. One good thing about–

CHUCK TODD:

You’ll rescind that one, too?

DONALD TRUMP:

One good thing about–

CHUCK TODD:

You’ll rescind the DREAM Act executive order–

DONALD TRUMP:

You’re going to have to.

CHUCK TODD:

DACA?

DONALD TRUMP:

We have to make a whole new set of standards. And when people come in, they have to come in legally–

CHUCK TODD:

So you’re going to split up families?

DONALD TRUMP:

Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You’re going to deport children–

DONALD TRUMP:

Chuck. No, no. We’re going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together.

CHUCK TODD:

But you’re going to keep them together out–

DONALD TRUMP:

But they have to go. But they have to go.

CHUCK TODD:

What if they have no place to go?

DONALD TRUMP:

We will work with them. They have to go. Chuck, we either have a country or we don’t have a country.

CHUCK TODD:

The cost of–

DONALD TRUMP:

Either, we have a country–

CHUCK TODD:

–doing this–

DONALD TRUMP:

–or not.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you do it?

DONALD TRUMP:

The cost of doing it? Look at the cost of what we have right now.

Trump then proceeded to run an entire primary campaign based on the notion he’d expel millions of people. In November, for example, he told the “Morning Joe” hosts: “You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely. Don’t forget, Mika, that you have millions of people that are waiting in line to come into this country and they’re waiting to come in legally. And I always say the wall, we’re going to build the wall. It’s going to be a real deal. It’s going to be a real wall.”

In debate after debate, his opponents, especially former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, repeatedly ridiculed the idea of deporting all those people. Even Ben Carson ridiculed it. Not once did Trump say they had it wrong. Not once did he say we are only going to deport the criminals. To the contrary, Trump praised the Eisenhower-era “Operation Wetback” as evidence that an expulsion policy was possible. He even had a time frame — 18 months. In February, in one of the many GOP debates, he again referenced “Operation Wetback,” claiming that once you started physically deporting people, many would flee on their own. Here is the exchange with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, you’ve called for a deportation force to remove the 11 million undocumented immigrants from the United States. You’ve also promised to let what you call, “the good ones,” come back in. Your words, “the good ones,” after they’ve been deported.

Senator Cruz would not allow them to come back in. He says that’s the biggest difference between the two of you. He calls your plan amnesty. Is it?

TRUMP: First of all, he was in charge of amnesty, he was the leader, and you can ask Marco because they’ve been debating this every debate that we’ve had.

As far as coming back in, number one, you wouldn’t even be talking, and you wouldn’t have asked that as the first question if it weren’t for me when my opening when I talked about illegals immigration. It wouldn’t even be a big subject.

But, we either have a country, or we don’t have a country. We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out. They will come back — some will come back, the best, through a process. They have to come back legally. They have to come back through a process, and it may not be a very quick process, but I think that’s very fair, and very fine.

They’re going to get in line with other people. The best of them will come back, but they’re going to come back through a process. . . .

Well, first of all, self-deportation is people are going to leave as soon as they see others going out. If you look at Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, they started moving people out and the rest of them left.

Self-deportation, as I really define it, and that’s the way I define it, is you’re going to get some to go, and the rest are going to go out.

As far as the people that I’ve hired in various parts of Florida during the absolute prime season, like Palm Beach and other locations, you could not get help. It’s the up season. People didn’t want to have part-time jobs. There were part-time jobs, very seasonal, 90-day jobs, 120-day jobs, and you couldn’t get.

Everybody agrees with me on that. They were part-time jobs. You needed them, or we just might as well close the doors, because you couldn’t get help in those hot, hot sections of Florida.

The notion that he had no specific plan for deporting 11 million people is nonsense. The Hillary Clinton camp is out with an ad, making the point rather clear:

If Trump wants to reverse course, that is his prerogative. However, he then should acknowledge he ran and won in the primaries by lying to Republicans by saying that he would deport 11 million people.

His campaign team and the media should clear the cobwebs from their memories, go to the videotape and decide if, like most everything Trump said to get the nomination, he was just scamming unwitting voters.