AUSTIN, Texas — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says he is open to a “softening” in laws dealing with people who are in the country illegally, offering a pivot away from the hardline immigration views he espoused throughout the primaries.
Trump made the remarks during a taping Tuesday afternoon of a town hall in Austin with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“Is there any part of the law that you might be able to change that would accommodate those people that contribute to society, have been law-abiding, have kids here?” Hannity asked. “Would there be any rule in your mind?”
“There certainly can be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” Trump said in his response. “We want people — we have some great people in this country.”
“We are going to follow the laws of this country,” Trump added.
Throughout the Republican primaries, Trump campaigned on a restrictive immigration reform, advocating mass deportation of the millions of people in the country unlawfully. In recent days, Trump and his advisers had signaled he may be willing to tone down those views, especially after a meeting Saturday with Hispanic leaders.
Earlier in the exchange, Hannity asked Trump if people “who have worked hard, who have been here a long time,” would be sent back to the country they came from or if he would “reconsider them.”
“We are going to follow the laws,” Trump said. “We’re going to see where people are, we’re going to see how they’ve done.”
Trump then brought up the idea of a “merit system” and expressed sympathy for “really great people” who have been waiting a long time to become citizens.
“You have years and years of people waiting in line. They’ve gone through a process,” Trump said, emphasizing he’s referring to people who have done so legally.
Trump continued: “They’re great people in some cases, and I guess in some cases, maybe not. But you have really great people wanting and so proudly wanting to come into our country and now what you’re doing is you take people away from that line.”
The Hannity taping was closed to the press but a number of people who attended provided live video. Trump’s remarks about “a softening” were also confirmed by a person there.