Story highlights

Donald Trump will lay out his immigration policy in a speech next week

Until then, Twitter is the best we can do to search for clues

Washington CNN  — 

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is expected to lay out his position on immigration in a speech next week in Arizona. But right now, very little is clear about Trump’s immigration policy, other than the fact that he has hinted at a “softening” on his position on undocumented immigrants, while at the same time saying he would not be flip-flopping.

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday, Trump didn’t clarify whether he still supported forcibly deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, although he did suggest any solution would take time and that securing the border would be his first priority. He also said he would only support a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who first left the US and returned.

Anyone following Trump’s presidential bid knows that one source can be trusted to usually mystify and occasionally clarify Trump’s minute-by-minute thoughts on the news of the day: his personal Twitter account.

These tweets help trace Trump’s thoughts on illegal immigration from his controversial campaign announcement last June up to Friday morning.

June 2015

While it is unclear what the “WIN!” in this particular tweet is in reference to, the rest of this tweet – sent out weeks after Trump’s campaign announcement – crystallize the candidate’s early message on the border between the US and Mexico.

July 2015

On the same day retail giant Macy’s pulled Trump brand merchandise from its stores, Trump shot back. The tweet did not explain how the chain is weak on border security, but presumably it would take more than 140 characters.

August 2015

Trump has used his Twitter account to applaud those who support his immigration stance, frequently retweeting them or sharing their art.

Immigration was one of Trump’s signature issues throughout the Republican primary and he used it to slam many of his GOP rivals, particularly Jeb Bush.

October 2015

As the Democratic race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton began to heat up, Trump turned his attention in their direction, a preview of the general election fight we’re seeing right now. Trump was apparently watching CNN’s October Democratic debate in order to subtweet his Democratic rivals.

November 2015

After a series of coordinated ISIS terror attacks in Paris left more than 100 people dead, Trump’s immigration rhetoric broadened to include Muslims.

December 2015

He ultimately suggested a ban on all non-American Muslims entering the United States. He has since modulated that position.

February 2016

One of Trump’s major talking points on immigration has been crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. This tweet included an ad in which the father of Jas Shaw, a 17-year-old killed by an undocumented immigrant in 2008, endorses Trump. The ad ran right before the South Carolina Republican primary, which Trump won.

March 2016

Twitter pro-tip: A lack of context is the key to more than 7,000 retweets.

August 2016

Trump’s interview with Hannity was where he hinted at his forthcoming “softening” on immigration. He has since said there would be no actual change in his position.

Next week he can explain how.