Fact-checking Mike Pence on 'Meet the Press'
Donald Trump made a statesman-like visit to the president of Mexico, then followed that up by delivering a hard-charging speech on immigration in Phoenix. It left many people wondering if Trump was softening or hardening his immigration policies.
That was the topic for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who took questions about his running mate on Meet the Press. Host Chuck Todd pointed out that Trump has been inconsistent on what to do with approximately 11 million people living in the United States illegally, specifically those who haven’t committed violent crime.
"I think Donald Trump’s been completely consistent," Pence countered. "And I think he did answer the question."
Todd pressed Pence with more questioning, noting that Latino leaders were concerned about Trump’s policies and what they actually were. But Pence didn’t directly answer.
We looked in depth at Trump’s statements about the undocumented and found that Trump’s answers have not been consistent; Pence’s statement rates False.
At times Trump has been vague, and at other times he’s contradicted himself. His current position seems to be one of wait and see.
Trump’s varied positions
As a presidential candidate, Trump has said violent criminals should be deported, a position that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton also holds. Trump has also advocated detention of those crossing the border and enhanced penalties for visa overstays.
His campaign website makes no mention of the undocumented population at large, however, and in comments throughout this election, he’s floated several different proposals.
A few days after he announced his candidacy, Trump suggested he was open to a pathway to citizenship.
"You have to give them a path, and you have to make it possible for them to succeed. But the bad ones, you have to get them out and get them out fast," Trump said in a July 3, 2015, press conference.
Then, during most of the GOP primary, Trump supported deporting all undocumented immigrants but allowing some to return through an expedited legal process.
He didn’t give details on how he would pay for and implement the deportations, but he remained committed to his position and criticized primary opponents for being weak on the issue and promising "amnesty."
"You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely," he said Nov. 11 on MSNBC. "Now they can come back. but they have to come back legally."
After winning the GOP primary, Trump seemed to walk back his calls for removing all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
"No, I wouldn’t call it mass deportations," he told Bloomberg in June. "We are going to get rid of a lot of bad dudes who are here, that I can tell you."
In an Aug. 23 town hall, Trump asked his supporters to indicate via applause what he should do with the nonviolent immigrants: "No. 1, we’ll say throw them out. No. 2, we work with them."
"They’ll pay back taxes. They have to pay taxes. There’s no amnesty," Trump said following the voice vote. "But we work with them. … Everywhere I go, I get the same reaction. They want toughness. They want firmness. They want to obey the law. But — but they feel that throwing them out as a whole family when they've been here for a long time — it's a tough thing."
Shortly after, Trump insisted he hadn’t changed his position. "I don’t think it’s a softening. I’ve had people saying it’s a hardening, actually," Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Aug. 26. "We’re going to deport many people, many, many people."
Given that the vast majority of the undocumented immigrants are not criminals, Cooper asked, would they be able to gain legal status?
"Unless people leave the country — well, when they come back in, if they come back in then they can start paying taxes," Trump responded. "But there is no path to legalization unless they leave the country and come back."
When pressed on whether he would deport undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed a crime, Trump said, "We’re going to see what happens. But there's a very good chance the answer could be yes, but there's no legalization. There's no amnesty. If somebody wants to go the legalization route, what they'll do is they'll go leave the country, hopefully come back in and then we can talk."
In his Aug. 31 Phoenix speech outlining his immigration policy, Trump reiterated that legal status would only be granted to undocumented immigrants who "return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else."
But a day after his speech, Trump suggested his mind wasn’t quite made up, and that he’d have to see which undocumented immigrants remained after all his policies had been implemented.
"We're going to sit back, we're going to assess the situation," Trump said on Fox News. "We're going to make a decision at that time. I want to see, before we do anything further, I want to see how it shapes up when we have strong, you know, I use the word impenetrable, borders."
Todd also pressed Pence about Trump’s policies to ban Muslims from entering the United States. In recent weeks, Trump has said he would ban Muslims from countries with terrorist activity.
When Todd pressed Pence about what countries those would be, Pence changed the subject to Clinton’s Syria policy.
"Well, Hillary Clinton wants to increase Syrian refugees to this country by 550 percent," Pence said. "Donald Trump and I believe that we should suspend the Syrian refugee program."
Pence added that their preferred policy is to work with Arab countries to establish safe zones closer to Syria.
Pence’s claim about a 550 percent is accurate for now. It rates True.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the international agency that tracks and promotes refugee resettlement around the world. Its current count of people who have fled the civil war in Syria, which started in 2011, is 4.8 million.
Many of those 4.8 million refugees are in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. Due to overcrowding and the large number of overall refugees, the UN has called on other countries around the world to accept more Syrians for resettlement.
President Barack Obama agreed on behalf of the United States to accept 10,000 refugees for fiscal year 2016. The number was reached on Aug. 29, 2016, and the UN hailed the milestone in a press release.
The agency reported that around 478,000 Syrians are in need of resettlement, and Syrians make up about 40 percent of all refugees worldwide who need resettlement.
In September 2015, Clinton had called the 10,000-figure for the United States a good start but had urged an increase up to 65,000. Clinton said then the United States should be "looking to really emphasize some of those who are most vulnerable, a lot of the persecuted religious minorities, including Christians, and some who have been brutalized, like the Yazidi women."
Oct. 1, 2016. Clinton has not discussed numbers for the next fiscal year. So it’s possible that 550 percent number may soon be out of date.
We should also note that there is a screening process for refugees. The UN identifies and screens refugees before they are referred to a country for resettlement. U.S. security agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, then conduct multiple security checks.