Trump said Wednesday in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash that as president he would deport all undocumented immigrants and then allow the "good ones" to reenter the country through an "expedited process" and live in the U.S. legally, though not as citizens.
"Legal status," Trump suggested. "We got to move 'em out, we're going to move 'em back in if they're really good people."
For a blustering candidate whose rhetoric has snatched headlines and galvanized a sizable segment of the Republican base, Trump's comments Wednesday represent his most detailed explanation into what he would do with the estimated 11-plus million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
He had previously suggested that he favors a "merit-based system," but did not delve into his support of granting legal status, but not citizenship to undocumented immigrants he calls "the good ones."
But Trump is still a long ways from presenting a specific immigration policy platform and his explanation in Wednesday's interview shows a candidate who -- despite leading in the polls a week ahead of the first primary debate
-- is still largely dealing in broad strokes.
Trump would not say how he would locate, round up and deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants he says must go. Instead, he deflected, saying that while it may be a task too tall for politicians, it isn't for a business mogul like himself.
"Politicians aren't going to find them because they have no clue. We will find them, we will get them out," Trump said. "It's feasible if you know how to manage. Politicians don't know how to manage."
And when asked about whether he would deport undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, Trump fumbled and said, unsure, that "it's a tough situation" and "it depends."
Trump was unequivocal, though, that a Trump administration would immediately deport undocumented criminals living freely and in American jails.
"We have a lot of bad dudes, as I said. We have a lot of really bad people here," Trump said. "I want to get the bad ones out...And by the way, they're never coming back."
But he was also unwavering in his insistence that many of the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are positive additions to the country and should be allowed to live in the U.S. legally -- of course, only after being expelled and then brought back in through Trump's "expedited process" for legal status.
"We have to make sure they were exemplary, they were wonderful people when they were here. They worked hard, there was no problem," he said. "We have to bring great people into this country. OK? And I want to bring -- I love the idea of immigration. But it's got to be legal immigration."
Trump also didn't delve into details when asked about his position on health care, which has changed over the years.
Trump once supported the liberal plan to create a national, single-payer health care system similar to the one in Canada, a position he explained in his 2000 book "The America We Deserve."
But as a Republican presidential candidate, Trump's plan is now simpler: Repeal Obamacare.
And then? "Replace with something terrific," Trump said, explaining that the "terrific" would be handled by private companies competing in the private market.
But Trump suggested an alternative system for lower-income individuals -- describing what, in the broad strokes, appears to sound similar to Medicaid.
"I want to try to help those people. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I want to try and help those people," Trump said. "And you know what, if I lose votes over that, or if I don't get a nomination over that, that's just fine with me."