From the very start of his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump has appealed to hardliners and nativists on the issue of immigration, calling undocumented Mexican immigrants “murderers” and “rapists,” proposing the construction of a wall on the United States’ southern border that Mexico will pay for, and promising as president to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.
Immigration has become Trump’s signature issue and a major part of his appeal, but the businessman did not always speak about the issue as he now does as a presidential candidate. At an event in Iowa less than two months after the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill, Trump made an appeal to “do the right thing” on immigration, emphasizing the humanity of immigrants while also cautioning that any solution must be “smart and methodical.”
“When it comes to immigration, you have to do the right thing,” Trump said at the FAMiLY Leadership Summit in Ames in 2013. “You have to, in your own heart, you’re dealing with lives, you’re dealing with human beings, you have to do the right thing. But it’s got to be done in a very, very smart and methodical method.”
Trump did issue a warning to Republicans that any solution giving undocumented immigrants the right to vote could be disastrous for the party.
“If you do something where they get a vote — and just remember, and I think I was the first one to say it, I don’t know if you remember, but I said this a long time ago when this first came up — everyone of those people, virtually, will be voting Democratic. They’re not voting Republican. And whether Sen. Rubio is leading the fight — and that’s the immigration fight — or not, it’s irrelevant. They’re just going to be voting Democratic. That’s the way it is, and the Democrats have taken hold of this issue, and they love the issue.”
“Do what’s right,” Trump said again. “But be very careful cause it could be a death wish for the Republican Party.”
Earlier in the speech, Trump underscored the importance of border security, saying, “You either have a country, or you don’t.”
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