In 2011, Trump said he supported ‘amnesty’ for some undocumented immigrants

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Donald Trump expressed support for “amnesty” for some undocumented immigrants during a 2011 interview on Fox News.

In an appearance in November of 2011 on “Fox and Friends,” Trump defended former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, then a candidate for the Republican nomination, who was being criticized by his opponent Michele Bachmann for saying at a debate that he wanted “a humane” approach to the subject of illegal immigration which would avoid deporting families rooted in American communities. Trump signaled he liked Gingrich’s approach, agreeing with a Fox host’s description that it could be called amnesty.

“Well first of all he’s really talking about something where somebody has been in the country for 25 years, they’ve been educated here, they’re really tremendously performing people, and citizens, or not citizens depending — I guess he’s talking about if they become, or should they become, citizens,” Trump said. “The fact is he’s showing a lot of compassion. Now I know both of them, and they’re both very, very, good people. I like what Newt is saying to a certain extent. It’s a very limited thing, but he’s talking about people that have really been terrific people for this country for a long, long, period of time. He’s saying it’s very, very, tough to throw them out.

“I tell you, I know Michele,” said Trump. “And if you told Michele, ‘Go across the street. You see that family? They’ve been here, they’ve been really producers for this country for 25 years. They’re great people, their children are educated, their children are producers, you go tell that family to get out of here and get into their own country,’ I don’t think she could do it, because she’s a good person.”

“This isn’t conservative, I’m the world’s most conservative person, this isn’t conservative. This is compassion,” added Trump.

“Is it amnesty?” asked “Fox and Friends” host Steve Doocy.

“I guess to a certain extent, for a very limited number of people, it would be considered amnesty, but how do you tell a family that’s been here for 25 years to get out?” responded Trump.

The 2011 exchange is significantly different from the central theme of Trump’s 2016 campaign, which has been a hardline position on immigration that emphasized the deportation of undocumented immigrants. In an August speech on immigration, Trump laid out his plan to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds, and made clear that the only path to becoming a legal resident would be for immigrants to return to their home country first.

“For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above,” Trump in his immigration speech. “Those who have left to seek entry under this new system will not be awarded surplus visas, but will have to enter under the immigration caps or limits that will be established.

“We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty.”

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

CNN’s KFile first reported earlier in October that Trump had in 2012 said in an interview that he did not support deporting many undocumented immigrants. The extent to which Trump supported so-called amnesty for undocumented immigrants in 2011 and 2012 was mostly unscrutinized throughout the 2016 campaign.

In the 2011 Fox News interview, Trump added that Gingrich’s comments would help him with voters in the general election, even if it hurt him with conservatives.

“With a very strong conservative group of people he did himself harm, with the overall electorate he did himself a lot of good,” said Trump.

By Andrew Kaczynski