Trump campaign fires back at immigration flip-flop charges

By Nick Gass
08/22/16 08:01 AM EDT

Donald Trump's immigration policy is not changing, his campaign insisted Monday, as the Republican nominee embarks on a week intended to explain and expand upon his proposals, which up until this point have largely centered around building a wall between the United States and Mexico at the latter party's expense.

"I don't think the message is changing at all. I think people are just getting to know Donald Trump better," running mate Mike Pence told Fox News' Ainsley Earhardt in an excerpt from an interview conducted over the weekend aired Monday.

BuzzFeed News reported on a meeting Saturday between Trump and Hispanic leaders in which the Manhattan businessman was said to have indicated an openness to legalization for undocumented immigrants. The Trump campaign subsequently disputed that account, emphasizing that Trump had said nothing different.

On Sunday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was pressed by CNN to clarify Trump’s stance on immigration, specifically whether he still supported a "deportation force” to remove people living in the U.S. illegally. Conway said plans for a deportation force are "to be determined.”

“What [Trump] supports is to make sure that we enforce the law, that we are respectful of those Americans who are looking for well-paying jobs, and that we are fair and humane for those who live among us in this country,” Conway said. “As the weeks unfold, he will lay out the specifics of that plan that he would implement as president of the United States.”

Eric Trump offered a similar line of defense on Monday.

"Listen, I don't know where the article came from. Actually, my father’s speaking about immigration all week, so I won't steal his thunder and his fire," Eric Trump said on "Fox & Friends," teasing out the week's theme. "But you know, my father’s immigration plan is pretty simple. He wants secure borders. You have to know who’s coming into the United States of America. You can't let people come in unchecked. We have 100 million people in this country that are out of the workforce. Right? I mean we have manufacturing jobs in this country have gone down one-third since 2000. We're losing jobs across the board, yet people are walking in unchecked and we don't know who they are. And they could be ISIS— "

Trump said his father "wants a safe country, and he also wants Americans to have jobs."

"I mean, they should come first. You were born in this country. You were born here legally. You’re here legally. I mean, wages have been stagnant for the last 15 years and it's because you have, you know, Syrian refugees coming in," Eric Trump continued. "It’s because you have, you know, thousands of people coming over the border. I mean, and Americans are suffering because of it and that's his point. So he's speaking to Hispanic and Latino leaders and he’s having really amazing conversations. He’s also speaking to law enforcement, he’s speaking to border patrol. And you know he’s going formulate a really, really great plan that's humane and ethical and that treats everybody well. But we have to solve the problem. It’s a real problem for this country."

Asked his reaction to the idea that his father is flip-flopping, Eric Trump was firm.

"My father hasn't flip-flopped on anything. This was all the auspices of one article that came out that didn't really -- wasn't grounded in any substance," Trump explained. "But again, my father is giving a big speech on this on Thursday so he'll be talking a lot about the specifics."