During a forum on national security issues Wednesday, Donald Trump said he would work with undocumented immigrants who were admitted into the US military.
“I think that when you serve in the Armed Forces, that's a very special situation and I can see myself working that out,” Trump told NBC News moderator Matt Lauer. “It would be a very special circumstance."
Trump was responding to a question from Brenda Fulton, a 1980 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and member of the first class to admit women, at the "Commander-in-Chief Forum" who asked if he would consider allowing undocumented immigrants who plan to serve the ability to stay in the US.
"I asked the question because our Armed Forces are the strength of our nation, and I believe our strength lies in our diversity," Fulton told BuzzFeed News. "I was surprised by his response that he would definitely 'work something out' in what he clearly believes - incorrectly - is a very rare situation. It also seemed inconsistent with what he’s said in the past about undocumented people. "
Trump in recent days has doubled down on his hardline rhetoric regarding immigration, particularly along the US-Mexico border, where he continues to promise to build a wall.
While the Republican presidential nominee on Wednesday appeared to be open to working on some sort of residency program for immigrants who serve in the military, he made clear that they would still have to be vetted very carefully.
Trump also addressed sexual assault rates in the military, calling them “a massive problem” made worse by an ill-equipped court system.
“The court system practically doesn’t exist,” Trump said. “When you have someone who does something so evil like that there has to be consequences for that.”
He added that sexual assaults should be dealt with by a military — not civilian — court system.
Trump also defended a tweet he posted earlier this year that was critical of the low number of sex assault prosecutions and ended with: “What do those geniuses expect when you put men and women together?”
“The tweet is right,” Trump said Wednesday. “No, I’m not saying take [men and women serving] out, but something has to happen. Right now, part of the problem is no one gets prosecuted. There are no consequences.”