FACT CHECK: Is Trump Sending ‘Mixed Messages’ On Amnesty?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed during a press briefing Tuesday that President Donald Trump has not sent “mixed messages” on his plans for “responsible immigration reform.”

Sanders made the claim in response to a question on Trump’s plan to grant amnesty to DACA recipients. Do his new plans for “Dreamers” amount to “mixed messages” on amnesty from the administration?

Verdict: True

Trump has given mixed signals on whether some illegal immigrants should receive legal status and whether his administration would pursue comprehensive immigration reform.

Fact Check:

At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Sanders was asked about amnesty for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that granted quasi-legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

“Last year, on the campaign trail, the president said he wouldn’t support amnesty,” said The Daily Caller’s Alex Pfeiffer. “But last week he asked Congress to legalize DACA. So why the change of heart?”

Sanders replied that legal status for DACA recipients should be considered as part of a comprehensive package the White House calls “responsible immigration reform.” She claimed that no part of this reform plan had changed.

“I think the president has always wanted responsible immigration reform,” Sanders said. “That hasn’t changed. The president is very much committed to the wall. We’re also committed to some other principles that we’ve laid out, and none of those have changed.”

Although Trump remains committed to a border wall, he has shown less consistency, or at least a lack of clarity, when it comes to whether illegal immigrants here today should receive legal status. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he spoke bluntly about amnesty.

“For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry,” Trump said during a campaign speech. “We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty.”

Trump reiterated the message of “no amnesty” in a tweet at the time.

Yet today, Trump appears to support legal status for at least some illegal immigrants – namely, DACA recipients. “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” Trump said in a recent statement.

This is not the first time Trump has sent “mixed messages” on amnesty. Days after speaking definitively about “one route and only one route” for illegal immigrants, he told reporters that “I’m not ruling out anything” when asked about a pathway for legal status.

Trump has also changed course by deciding to pursue comprehensive immigration reform. This plan would lump the consideration of legal status for DACA recipients with other immigration reforms. But during the campaign, Trump insisted that amnesty be considered separately.

“In several years, when we have accomplished all of our enforcement goals – and truly ended illegal immigration for good, including the construction of a great wall, and the establishment of our new lawful immigration system – then and only then will we be in a position to consider the appropriate disposition of those who remain,” Trump told an audience in 2016.

“That discussion can only take place in an atmosphere in which illegal immigration is a memory of the past, allowing us to weigh the different options available based on the new circumstances at the time.”

Trump has instead requested that Congress decide on legal status for DACA recipients while the flow of illegal immigration continues and the border wall has not yet been built.

Although Trump continues to make the enforcement of immigration laws a hallmark of his presidency, on the issue of amnesty for DACA recipients he has sent some “mixed messages.”

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor

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