And during an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Trump seemed to suggest he would kick out most immigrants who are in the country illegally. Here's a transcript (The Fix boss annotated it, too!):
TRUMP: The executive order gets rescinded. One good thing about —TODD: You'll rescind that one, too? You'll rescind the Dream Act executive order, the DACA?TRUMP: We have to make a whole new set of standards. And when people come in, they have to come in —TODD: You're going to split up families. You're going to deport children?TRUMP: Chuck — no, no. No, we're going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together.TODD: But you're going to kick them out?TRUMP: They have to go.TODD: What if they have no place to go?TRUMP: We will work with them. They have to go. Chuck, we either have a country or we don't have a country. Either we have a country or not.
As with many things Trump, he's appealing to a vocal minority of Americans. And on this particular issue, he's also appealing to a vocal minority of his fellow Republicans — most of whom disagree with him.
In polling conducted in June and July, Gallup gave Americans three options on what to do with immigrants who are in the country illegally:
- Let them stay and give some who meet certain requirements a path to citizenship.
- Let them stay and work for a limited amount of time.
- Deport them.
Gallup found that 65 percent of all Americans favored some sort of path to citizenship. The next-most-popular option was deportation, but just 19 percent favored that option, while 14 percent wanted to let them stay for limited amount of time.
Here are the results over time:
The polling, conducted as part of Gallup's 2015 Minority Rights project, included larger-than-normal samples of Hispanic and black Americans.
But Trump is not trying to appeal to the broadest swath of Americans possible. He's angling for the most conservative support. Among Republicans, public opinion on plans that favor deportation are slightly more popular than with America as a whole, but not enough.
According to Gallup, about half of Republicans support a path to citizenship, and that is the most common view within the party.
That 31 percent of Republicans favoring deportation is actually higher than in 2006, when President George W. Bush favored legislation that included a path to citizenship.
Here are how the parties have broken down over that span, with Republicans moving toward deportation and Democrats toward letting illegal immigrants stay.
A June poll by the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute found that an even higher number of Republicans — 57 percent — supported a pathway to citizenship, provided immigrants meet certain requirements.
Once you get past the d-word, though, Trump's immigration policies begin to have broader appeal. A 2013 Gallup survey found that Americans — especially Republicans — do support measures such as tightening border security (Trump also wants to build a wall somehow paid for by Mexico) and requiring U.S. business owners to check a person's immigration status before hiring him/her (Trump wants to implement a national e-verify system).
Trump was never going to please moderates on illegal immigration, especially after his comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico. And his view on deportation is one that even the vast majority of conservative politicians decline to take.
If he wants to expand his appeal beyond where it is today, he would be better served talking about other enforcement measures.