Trump doubles down on Wall but is silent on “Muslim ban”

If you tuned into Donald Trump’s immigration speech Wednesday night — or chose to read about it the next day — you saw that the Republican nominee, who has based much of his candidacy on immigration reform, didn’t shy away from his promises. Following a topsy-turvy 24 hours that left many expecting a softening of rhetoric by the Republican nominee, Trump instead doubled down on his call to “Make America Great Again” by keeping illegal immigrants out.

The at times off the cuff, hour long speech was rife with all the right trigger words: a shun of amnesty, a promise of increased security and a re-iteration of one of the biggest policy points of Trump’s campaign — building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — a concept that was seemingly reinforced by Trump’s last minute visit with Mexico’s president only five hours before his Phoenix, Ariz., speech.

But Trump’s comments on the wall weren’t the only ones he seemed to do a 180 on in a mere day. While he re-emphasized some policy promises, he reintroduced others that his campaign up until now seemed to distance itself from while also forgetting about other promises entirely.

We compiled the main changes.

The Wall

It’s one of the main tenants of Trump’s immigration plan — a policy which you may recall was the only position the candidate had listed on his website for months.

It’s also a topic Trump tweets about frequently. Since last December, Trump has tweeted about “the wall” 18 times, referencing it most frequently in February and again in July and August. No backing off there.


Brittany Fong/Scripps News

When it comes to specifics on The Great Wall of Trump it gets murky, not just in height — which fluctuates between 30 and 50 feet and will “go up so fast your head will spin,” but when it comes to who is paying for it. Trump originally maintained that he will make Mexico pay for it.


But following the candidate’s meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City Wednesday, it’s clear that the two were not on the same page. Trump told reporters at a joint press conference, “We did discuss the wall, we didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date.”

President Nieto however refuted Trump’s claims, tweeting after the press conference:

During Wednesday night’s speech, Trump doubled down on his promise that Mexico would in fact pay for the wall.

He told the crowd at his Arizona rally, “And Mexico will pay for the wall. 100 percent. They don’t know it yet but they will pay for the wall,” continuing “On day one [in the White House] we will begin working on an impenetrable, tall, beautiful southern wall…Above and bellow ground. With towers, aerial surveillance and man power to supplement the wall.”

Deportation force

Back in November Donald Trump started mentioning a new plan to build a “deportation force” along the Mexican border.


At the time it was hard to decipher whether the candidate planned to create a new enforcement group or to double up the current U.S. Border Patrol. By the end of August though, his campaign backed off the idea completely. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, attempted to clarify the point by saying Trump had meant “a mechanism, not a policy.”

But Trump returned to backing a “force” in his Wednesday speech. This time, he labeled it a “special deportation task force,” a group he said he would create within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would “focus on identifying the most dangers criminals in America who have evaded justice, just like Hillary Clinton has evaded justice.” He added, “maybe they will be able to deport her.”

Through the move he promised to triple the number of ICE deportation officers and hire thousands more border patrol agents.

Muslim ban

Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. is his biggest policy chameleon. He first proposed the plan back in December. His campaign put out a press release then saying:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

By May of 2016 Trump changed to calling the ban temporary. On Fox News Radio he said:

“It’s a temporary ban. It hasn’t been called for yet, nobody’s done it,” he says on Fox News Radio. “This is just a suggestion until we find out what’s going on.”

By June 13, 2016, after the fatal shooting at an Orlando nightclub, Trump re-established his support for a ban but this time didn’t specify that it would be solely for Muslims. Instead in a speech he said:

“I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe, or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.”

Fast forward a week and Trump softened a bit more, telling CNN that his ban is not ironclad and would let Muslims in to the U.S. if they were “vetted strongly.”

That rhetoric quickly morphed a bit into “extreme vetting.” At an Aug. 15 rally in Youngstown, Ohio, a scripted Trump told the crowd, “In addition to screening out all members of the sympathizers of terrorist groups we must screen out anyone who of hostile attitudes towards our country and its principles.”

You also can see how Trump’s reference to the Muslim ban has changed based on his tweets. In the three instances that he mentioned a “ban” on Twitter in the past six months, he shifted from referencing a “Muslim ban” in January to referencing a “temporary ban” in mid-June and has tweeting nothing on a ban since then.

Ban photo

Brittany Fong/Scripps News

On Wednesday he continued to mention extreme vetting while never mentioning an outright ban. His new policy proposal promised to have the right people leading the “vetting procedure” of refugees saying, “If we have the right people doing it, we will have very, very few slipping through the cracks.”

Viewing the recent state of Trump’s policies, it’s clear that his campaign is undergoing an image change. While campaign manager Kellyanne Conway has tried to create a softer image of Trump, one that seems to court African-American, female and Latino voters, it’s clear after Wednesday night that Trump’s policy specifics speak for themselves. A softening of rhetoric or a meeting with a foreign president may do little for a candidate who has proven to change his message on a daily basis, frequently through a simple tweet.

Brittany Fong contributed to this article

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