The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Donald Trump sounds like he supports what he once labeled ‘amnesty’

Screenshot of Trump ad, via YouTube
Placeholder while article actions load

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested in comments airing Wednesday night that he supports a process for allowing illegal immigrants in good standing to stay in the United States.

Trump didn't say those words, exactly, but he clearly adopted the language of those who back a path to legal status — with penalties. "No citizenship," Trump specified, before noting that the undocumented, under his plan, would have to pay back taxes and that he would "work with them."

Trump was quick to clarify in his town hall with Fox News's Sean Hannity that this didn't amount to "amnesty." "There's no amnesty, as such," Trump said. "There's no amnesty."

He might want to tell that to the old Donald Trump.

Trump ‘softening’ on immigration? Many of his supporters don’t seem to mind.

Back during the GOP primary, Trump pilloried Sen. Ted Cruz for supporting a path to legal status for illegal immigrants. Cruz had proposed an amendment to an immigration reform bill that would have stripped its path to citizenship but left intact a path to legal status. His campaign later suggested it was meant to undermine the entire bill and said Cruz didn't support legal status, but it's clear that's what Trump had labeled as "amnesty."

Trump even launched an ad on the subject.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump released his first attack ad, which targets Ted Cruz's stance on immigration. (Video: Donald Trump)

The ad played Cruz comments from 2013 in which the Texas senator said he wanted "immigration reform to pass ... and that allows those that are here illegally to come out of the shadows."

Those Cruz comments aired as a banner on the screen read "pro amnesty."

Trump would later tweet about Cruz and amnesty:

To be clear, Trump's case that Cruz supported amnesty was based on his comments on illegal immigrants coming "out of the shadows" and Cruz's amendment that would have allowed for a path to legal status to stand. Otherwise, Cruz's stance on immigration was as-tough or even tougher than Trump's. (Cruz even criticized Trump for his own "amnesty" — in this case, allowing illegal immigrants who were deported to apply to return, legally.)

A member of Trump's group of Hispanic advisers, Steve Cortes, appeared on Fox News's "The O'Reilly Factor" on Wednesday night and argued that "amnesty" would require a path to citizenship. But Cruz never embraced that, and Trump still accused him of favoring amnesty.

Indeed, Trump sounds a lot like he's now preparing to allow undocumented immigrants to come "out of the shadows" and live in the United States — legally — with apparent penalties. Many Republicans would certainly call that "amnesty" — including Trump in a former life.

What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail

MANCHESTER, NH - NOVEMBER 7: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH on Monday November 07, 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)