During his campaign, Trump said over and over that he wanted to find a way for most illegal immigrants to secure legal status. The “bad ones” had to go, Trump said, but the “good ones” would be allowed to leave and then return in an “expedited” fashion. In a 2015 interview with CNN, Trump said, “I would get people out and then have an expedited way of getting them back into the country so they can be legal. . . . I want to move ’em out, and we’re going to move ’em back in and let them be legal. . . . I actually have a big heart. Something that nobody knows.”
As I have pointed out, this is a policy called “touchback,” which was proposed in 2007 by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.). Under Hutchison’s plan, illegal immigrants who had not committed crimes would return to their home countries and obtain a special “Z visa” that would allow them to reenter the United States and work here indefinitely. Her amendment lost narrowly, 53 to 45, but it received votes from five Democrats — including Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), two senators up for reelection next year in states Trump won by double digits. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.-S.C.), an immigration reform proponent, had his own version of touchback, too.