WASHINGTON - The millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States must leave, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said on Sunday (Aug 16), as he unveiled his immigration platform.
Trump, himself the son and grandson of immigrants, also vowed to rescind President Barack Obama's executive orders that have slowed deportations of illegal immigrants, and to end birthright citizenship.
"They have to go," Trump told NBC's "Meet the Press" programme, referring to undocumented immigrants. "We'll keep families together. (And) they have to go ... We have to come up with a whole new set of standards. Either we have a country or we don't have a country."
The billionaire businessman and reality TV presenter was vague on the details, and would not confirm where those with nowhere to go would be sent.
"We'll work with them," he said, without elaborating. It will work out so well. You'll be so happy," he went on. In four years, you're going to be interviewing me and say, 'what a great job you've done, President Trump.'"
In the United States, the remarks are seen by many analysts as discriminatory. Most illegal immigrants are from neighbouring Mexico.
Trump has not called for making Canada build a wall along its even longer border with the United States. His own mother and two of his three spouses were immigrants. His paternal grandparents were from Germany.
Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States, and most have Mexican roots. Hispanic American votes are critical for both Republicans and Democrats seeking to win the White House.
Yet Trump, known for being brash, still raised eyebrows and made headlines calling many Mexicans "rapists" and criminals, demanding that Mexico pay for a wall between the neighbouring countries and then refusing to retract his remarks.
"This isn't a reality - this is the real deal," Trump said. "I love this country and I want to make it great again. And it's not going to be great if we keep going the way we're going, we're going to be third world. We probably already are."
On the policy side, the biggest surprise in Trump's to-do list was his pledge to end birthright citizenship, which he called the "biggest magnet for illegal immigration." This cornerstone of US immigration policy allows anyone born on US soil to obtain American citizenship.