The idea that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wants to deport all undocumented immigrants is “nonsense,” vice presidential nominee and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said on Tuesday during a debate against his Democratic counterpart.
Pence’s role throughout the campaign has been to paper over some of Trump’s more controversial comments, including those involving immigration. During the debate, he did so by denying that Trump had advocated for driving out all undocumented immigrants and predicting a rapid timeline for the Republican ticket to fix unauthorized immigration entirely.
At that point, once everything is fixed, Pence said he would be willing to discuss immigration reform.
“I’ll work with you when you go back to the Senate, I promise you,” Pence told Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
There’s a huge problem there, however ― it’s based on the idea that a Trump-Pence White House could end unauthorized immigration, build a border wall, deport all criminal undocumented immigrants and visa overstayers, expand immigration agencies and create stricter enforcement measures within an eight-year period. Then, maybe, they would consider something for the undocumented immigrants who somehow avoided being deported or driven out of the country.
Neither Trump nor Pence has given specifics on what they would require before they would address immigration reform, or even what types of policies they would support. Pence did not say whether he would support legal status for undocumented immigrants, and Trump has given no indication that he would.
Kaine, the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, took the most dramatic interpretation of Trump’s immigration comments, including the Republican’s statement last year that he would create a “deportation force.” Kaine said Trump wanted to send agents house to house and school to school to pick up undocumented immigrants.
“That’s nonsense,” Pence said, echoing campaign officials who have said Trump wasn’t talking about a door-to-door enforcement regime.
Pence was more accepting of the “deportation force” line.
“We have a deportation force, it’s called Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” he said, repeatedly touting Trump’s endorsement from the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council.
Kaine also accurately pointed out that Trump and Pence would put about 16 million people at risk for deportation ― even though the undocumented population is closer to 11 million ― because they want to block children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents from birthright citizenship.
Kaine said he and Clinton would prioritize keeping families together, deporting violent undocumented immigrants, improving border security and immigration reform, which Pence said was effectively amnesty and open borders.
The Democrat seemed to get under Pence’s skin by repeatedly bringing up that Trump began his campaign by saying Mexico was sending rapists and criminals across the border ― although “some,” Trump said he assumed, “are good people.”
Pence bristled at Kaine’s failure to acknowledge the latter part.
“Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again,” Pence said near the end of the debate. “There are criminal aliens in this country, Tim, who have come into this country illegally, who are perpetrating violence and taking American lives. He also said ‘and many of them are good people.’ You keep leaving that out of your quote.”
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.