The Clinton campaign on Thursday accused Donald Trump of backing a wild and terrible proposal to deport millions of illegal immigrants, and called the GOP nominee's supposed plan "dangerous."
"Donald Trump reinforced today that he would deport 16 million people, including every undocumented immigrant and American citizens born here to undocumented parents," Hillary for America Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri said in a statement.
"Confirming what we've seen from the start of his campaign: Donald Trump will be Donald Trump. No one can change his hateful rhetoric or dangerous policies to send a deportation force into American communities, rescind [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and [Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents], end birthright citizenship, and even ban remittances to families in Mexico in order to help build his giant wall," the statement added.
Trump has sent mixed signals this week on his plan to enforce immigration laws in the United States. In a taped interview this week with Fox News' Sean Hannity, the GOP nominee suggested that illegal aliens who are already here could perhaps be allowed to stay if they paid back taxes.
However, in a subsequent interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper Thursday evening, the Republican candidate appeared to shift positions, and suggested there would be no legal status for the nearly 11 million immigrants in the U.S.
Cooper asked, "So if they haven't committed a crime is there going to be a path to legalization? I'm not talking about citizenship."
Trump answered, "First thing we're going to do. No is not a path — there is no path to legalization unless people leave the country. When they come back in, if they come back in, then they can start paying taxes but there is no path to legalization unless they leave the country and come back."
Trump added that "bad dudes," of whom he said there are "probably millions," would be sent back immediately if he wins the White House this fall.
And as for the undocumented non-"bad dudes" who are in the U.S. right now, Trump was not clear what he planned to do with them, and would only say "there is a very good chance" they would also be sent back.
"It's a process. You can't take 11 at one time and just say: 'Boom, you're gone,'" he said.
Trump's remarks Thursday come amid reports he has "softened" his tone on immigration, a claim he denied in his interview with Cooper.
"I don't think it's a softening," he said. "I've had people say it's a hardening, actually."
Like Trump, Clinton's campaign maintained Thursday that there has been no real change in the GOP nominee's immigration platform.
"He may try to disguise his plans by throwing in words like 'humane' or 'fair,' but the reality remains that Trump's agenda echoes the extreme right's will — one that is fueling a dangerous movement of hatred across the country," said Palmieri.
"Enough is enough. Donald Trump must stop playing games with the lives of law-abiding immigrant families in order to save his campaign. These are families who contribute to the greatness of our country and that need a President who will fight to keep them together — not someone who will denigrate them and tear them apart," she said.