We’ll know soon enough, won’t we? If King’s right that this is a shift in “tone” more so than policy substance, the part on legalization in Trump’s upcoming speech on immigration will make that clear — I hope. He’s gotten awfully far this year with strategic ambiguity, transforming his Muslim ban into an “ideological ban” and a “terror region ban” whose specifics are as yet unclear. Maybe he’ll employ strategic ambiguity in his immigration address too, talking vaguely about a “softer” and more “humane” approach to illegals while avoiding any discussion of legalization. That way hardliners like King can go on believing he’s still committed to mass deportation while moderate Republicans and swing voters can tell themselves he’s backed off of the idea. That’s the art of the deal, baby.

King’s view is that Trump’s new “softer” approach means there’s not going to be any new “deportation force” commissioned to remove illegals en masse. But that doesn’t mean existing law enforcement, i.e. ICE and local police, can’t go about ramping up deportations under the laws we already have. It’s an odd mirror of the squabbling in immigration reform debates over whether a “special path to citizenship” should be created for illegals or whether they should be sent to the back of the line of the citizenship process that the U.S. already has in place.

“When you balance that together, I think what it says is that if people are anticipating that there would be a deportation corps that would be deployed across this country, that softening means that’s less likely,” King acknowledged. “And he said, too, we have the police force out there. They know who people are. And let’s work with local law enforcement. And they didn’t say it in this interview. But in these sanctuary cities and enforcing the law, that will keep us busy for a long time.”…

King was then pressed on whether allowing people to stay, even if they contribute to society and have been law abiding, would be “tantamount to amnesty.”

I would say yes. And the reason is they’re not law abiding in the first place. By crossing the border illegally, they’re by definition criminals. And he has said he wants to remove the criminals in this country,” King explained…

[I]f Trump moved off his position, King made clear that it “would be a mistake.”

Enforce the laws we already have, King suggests, and you’ll get mass deportation even without any grand new “mass deportation!” policies being enacted. Democrat Greg Sargent reads Trump’s shift that way too, although liberals have an electoral interest in interpreting Trump that way. If he really is shifting towards legalization then he has an opening, at least in theory, to make gains in the middle among people who don’t like the idea of mass deportation. If he’s not shifting towards legalization and is still quietly in favor of mass deportation, well, then he’s still the same ol’ “radical” Trump whom swing voters should loathe. Let me point you back to this quote from yesterday’s event with Sean Hannity, though. Does this sound like a guy who’s prepared to remove illegals and their kids en masse?

If you’re all about enforcing the laws, you don’t need a “merit system” that looks at how long an illegal’s been here, whether he’s been holding down a job, obeying the law, and so forth. If he’s illegal, he’s gone. It’s a matter of sovereignty, not “merit.” That was Trump 1.0. If King is right that the current Trump is still Trump 1.0, what’s he doing chattering to Hannity’s audience about “working with” illegals who are here?

Here’s another quote, just reported this afternoon:

That’s classic legalization talk. We’re not granting citizenship, Trump vows … but as far as removing a family that’s been here 15 years? C’mon. The “back taxes” point is a dead giveaway too. Amnesty fans are forever citing that as proof that their legalization plan isn’t technically an amnesty. Amnesty is when you’re granted legal status without having to pay any penalty; having to pay back taxes is a penalty, ergo legalization with that condition isn’t technically amnesty. But who cares? The point is that legalization is happening. In fact, as Jeb Bush’s former spokesman correctly notes, legalization without citizenship is the Jeb Bush position. If Trump is chattering about back taxes now, that’s smoking-gun proof that he’s moving in that direction — not just in tone, as Steve King would have you believe, but in terms of actual policy.

As a gloss on this, new numbers from Gallup when people are asked whether they want immigration levels increased, decreased, or maintained at the current level:

gal

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that immigration shouldn’t be increased, at least. Check out the number among Hispanics and Hispanics born in Mexico, though. You’re not far from a plurality in either case who think immigration should be decreased. The least popular position in both groups, by a wide margin, is more immigration.

Speaking of winning over Hispanics, here’s top amnesty shill Jorge Ramos warning Trump that his “softening” approach on illegals is too little, too late for Latino voters. We’ll see about that, but he’s probably correct. Ramos is assuming, though, that Latinos are the target audience for Trump’s pitch. They probably aren’t. Trump has been aiming to consolidate the white vote since day one and has run into problems there lately, losing white women and white college graduates to Hillary in multiple polls. The “softening” is probably designed to make them more comfortable with voting for Trump, not Latinos. If he can get back to Romney-level numbers among whites, especially more educated whites, the race will tighten quickly.