U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would rescind President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration and deport all undocumented immigrants if elected next year.
“They have to go,” the billionaire real estate magnate said in an interview to air Sunday on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” Trump said he wouldn’t split up families and instead would deport them “together.”
“We have to make a whole new set of standards,” the front-runner in Republican polls said. “We either have a country or we don’t have a country.”
In a wide-ranging, rapid-fire, 40-minute conversation, Trump predicted the Iran nuclear deal could lead to “a nuclear holocaust,” and said he would “knock the hell out of the oil” held by Islamic State forces.
Trump declined to rule out shutting down the U.S. government if necessary to prevent federal funding of Planned Parenthood, which has come under criticism by Republicans after the emergence of undercover videos containing graphic discussion of fetal organ research.
While describing the option of running as an independent candidate for president as “highly unlikely,” the Republican business mogul and reality-TV star said, “I just don’t want to close that door yet.”
Trump, who spent months contending that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not eligible to lead the country, declined to say whether he is now convinced that Obama was born in the U.S.
“I don’t like talking about it anymore,” he said. “Because honestly, I have my own feelings.”
Trump has made fighting illegal immigration a cornerstone of his run for the White House. Announcing his candidacy in June, he called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and said they bring drugs and crime to the U.S., earning rebukes from fellow Republicans and companies including Macy’s Inc. and Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal unit.
While those who entered the country illegally must be made to leave, Trump said, “we will expedite it so people can come back in. The good people can come back.”
Trump has called for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and said he’d force Mexico to pay for it, without explaining how. A spokesman for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Aug. 13 that Trump’s suggestion showed “enormous ignorance for what Mexico represents.”
There are about 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., slightly more than half of them from Mexico, and they account for 5.1 percent of the U.S. labor force, according to the Pew Research Center.
Obama in November announced a unilateral change to U.S. immigration policy designed to shelter millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and provide them with three-year work permits.
To qualify for the program, immigrants must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and be the parents of an American citizen or have been brought here as children themselves. They must also pass a criminal background check.
On foreign policy matters, Trump described the Iran nuclear deal, which trades curbs on the country’s nuclear program for an easing of sanctions, in apocalyptic terms.
“They are going to have nuclear weapons,” he said. “They are going to take over parts of the world that you wouldn’t believe. And I think it’s going to lead to nuclear holocaust.”
Trump said the U.S. should have told Iran that it will never regain its money held by overseas banks under sanctions, saying the U.S. position should have been, “We will never give you back your money.”
He didn’t explain how he could impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program without ever agreeing to loosen sanctions, and he wasn’t pressed on the point in the interview.
While stopping short of promising to rip up the Iran deal if he becomes president, Trump said, “I would police that contract so tough that they don’t have a chance.”
To defeat Islamic State, which has declared a self-styled caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, Trump called for an attack on the oil fields held by the radical Sunni group, which funds much of its warfare.
When told such a plan would require ground troops, Trump said, “That’s okay,” without explaining how many troops would be required, who would provide the forces, or how long the operation would take.