"I don't think it's a softening. I've had people say it's a hardening, actually," Donald Trump said of his contradictory comments on immigration

By Tierney McAfee
Updated August 26, 2016 01:15 PM
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Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Facing widespread criticism over his waffling on immigration this week, Donald Trump appeared on CNN on Thursday night to set the record straight – sort of.

The GOP nominee shifted back to his usual hardline position on the issue, telling CNN‘s Anderson Cooper, “There is no path to legalization unless [undocumented immigrants] leave the country and come back.”

“When they come back in, then they can start paying taxes, but there is no path to legalization unless they leave the country and then come back,” he added.

“So if you haven’t committed a crime and you’ve been here for 15 years, and you have a family here, you have a job here, will you be deported?” Cooper asked.

Trump replied, “We’re going to see what happens once we strengthen up our border … But there is a very good chance the answer could be yes, we’re going to see what happens.”

When Cooper questioned Trump about his “softening” comments on Hannity earlier this week, the GOP nominee replied, “I don’t think it’s a softening. I’ve had people say it’s a hardening, actually.”

Trump – who since the beginning of his campaign has repeatedly pledged to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants if elected president – appeared at a town hall event held by FOX News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday and said of his immigration plan, “There certainly can be a softening.”

He then live polled the audience on mass deportation, asking, “Who wants those people thrown out?” and “Who doesn’t want them thrown out?”

“This is like a poll!” he told Hannity. “And this is what I’m getting all over the country, Please, please – we are going to come out with a decision very soon. The bad guys are out of here. Now, that one, we agree on.”

The impromptu “poll” earned Trump the “Colbert” treatment on The Late Show Thursday night, when host Stephen Colbert asked the question likely on many Americans’ minds: “I’m sorry, what’s happening?”

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He wasn’t the only one who was confused.

On CNN Friday morning political commentator Ryan Lizza called deciphering Trump’s immigration plans “like reading goat entrails” and Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, called it a “multiple choice” approach.

But former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor seemed to get it:

“Pleased to see @realDonaldTrump embrace @JebBush’s immigration plan,” he tweeted on Thursday.

Of course, Trump’s position has changed since then.