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A leading amnesty foe is blasting Donald Trump for moving far away from his earlier proposal on how to handle the millions of people in the country illegally, and he said the Republican presidential nominee now holds a position largely identical to those offered by Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and the Senate’s Gang of Eight.

On Tuesday, Trump told the Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that many people have approached him about softening his plan to create a national deportation force to expel everyone in the U.S. illegally.

“I’ve had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me. They’ve said, ‘Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who’s been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and the family out. It’s so tough, Mr. Trump.’ I have it all the time,” said Trump on “Hannity” Tuesday night.

He then explained why allowing those who followed the law since entering the country illegally would not amount to amnesty.

“They’ll pay back taxes. They have to pay taxes. There’s no amnesty as such. There’s no amnesty,” Trump said.

But Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian told WND and Radio America this is a stunning reversal for the candidate who won the GOP nomination based largely upon his commitment to secure the border and remove those living here illegally. He said this new Trump approach doesn’t seem to differ much at all from the 2013 Gang of Eight bill that passed the U.S. Senate but died in the House of Representatives.

“Not that much, honestly,” Krikorian said. “The Gang of Eight was obviously a lot more detailed with a lot more explicit, whereas Trump is talking off the top of his head. But really, he is now the unofficial ninth member of the Gang of Eight.

“You’ve got to wonder when Jeb (Bush) was watching this on TV, he probably spit out his drink and started yelling, ‘That’s my immigration plan!'”

Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Mark Krikorian: 

He said Trump used the same verbal tactics that amnesty supporters also employ.

“He was using phrases like ‘it’s not really an amnesty’ or ‘it’s not an amnesty as such’ and ‘they’ll pay back taxes.’ Those are buzzwords of the pro-amnesty people. Every politician pushing an amnesty says it’s not really an amnesty,” he said.

Krikorian asserted that, just like 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Trump doesn’t speak the language of conservatives and really has no idea what they believe.

“The guy has been running on immigration for a year,” Krikorian said. “And he still doesn’t have the three bullet-point summary that you need to be able to articulate if you’re running for office on your signature issue. You need to know something about your signature issue. He doesn’t. Nothing.”

Krikorian believes it’s that disconnect with conservatives that led Trump to mistakenly conclude that the party base favored mass deportation through deportation squads. He said Trump may well have offered that idea out of genuine concern over America’s poor border security, but he was going to have to ease his position eventually,

“He was going to have to walk back his ridiculous comments about deporting all the illegals. There was no question. No immigration restrictionist has ever called for that,” Krikorian said. “That’s just something that was sort of a gut reaction of his. That was Archie Bunker yelling at the television.”

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In the wake of Trump’s major policy shift, there is some speculation that internal polling convinced Trump to change course. Krikorian said if that’s the case, it should not be taken as a sign that American oppose blocking citizenship or legalization for those in the U.S. illegally.

“What the polling would likely show is that saying you’re going to deport all 12 million illegal aliens in two years with deportation squads, or whatever term he used, that doesn’t poll well,” Krikorian explained. ” You bet it doesn’t. That’s why no one in the restrictionist movement has ever suggested anything like that.”

But Krikorian said Trump walked it back in entirely the wrong way, by listening to his Latino advisers, who all backed the Gang of Eight and the immigration proposals of President George W. Bush.

“They’re all Bush people,” he said. “They were all for the amnesty in the Gang of Eight, and they were all for the earlier Bush amnesty. Presumably, with this meeting, people were saying, ‘Well Donald, it’s not really an amnesty if you don’t give them citizenship and make them pay back taxes.'”

“They made the same assumption that Republican and even Democratic politicians always make – that there’s only two options. Either deport them all with deportation squads or amnesty. It is not a binary choice,” he said.

Krikorian said the right way to back away from mass deportation was obvious. In fact, it’s been on Trump’s website for months. The strategy includes consistent enforcement of the law, monitoring businesses as they hire and keeping track of visa holders to reduce the number of people in the U.S. illegally.

“Then when you re-establish control, you can have a discussion about what we do about the people who are left here,” he explained.

While Krikorian slams Trump for flip-flopping on his signature issue, he is far more critical of Hillary Clinton. Krikorian said Clinton has the most radical immigration plan ever put forward by a major party nominee in the U.S., to the point of refusing to deport anyone here illegally unless they are convicted of a violent felony. She would also grant amnesty to all current illegal immigrants.

“That is radical,” he said. “Trump does look pretty good compared to that. My point is not that they’re the same or that Trump is worse. Hillary is unbelievably worse on immigration, to the level of irresponsibility and dereliction of duty.”

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