Ruben Navarrette: Listen to what Trump is really saying about immigration

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a campaign rally in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on July 25.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a campaign rally in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on July 25. The Associated Press

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Donald Trump may be good for the immigration debate after all.

Trump is a refreshing change from those in both parties who are too afraid to speak the truth about the jobs done by illegal immigrants. Also, Trump doesn’t let his opposition to illegal immigration interfere with his support for legal immigration.

When candidates gather Thursday for a pair of GOP presidential debates – the main event at “The Donald Trump Debate,” and an undercard matchup at the “kids’ table” – we are sure to hear a lot about Trump’s views on immigration.

Yet those views are becoming more nuanced all the time.

In a recent interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Trump made the case that, while he opposes illegal immigration, he thinks legal immigration is good for the economy and the country. In fact, in talking up foreign workers, he is more vocal than many Democrats.

“We have to bring great people into this country,” he said. “And I want to bring – I love the idea of immigration. But it’s got to be legal immigration.”

“I mean, there are jobs that a lot of people don’t want to do,” the GOP front-runner added.

That’s what we used to call truth, the sort you won’t hear from other presidential hopefuls in either party who are afraid of the backlash.

The billionaire even expressed sympathy for undocumented young people brought here by their parents as children – a group that Hillary Clinton has been known to sprint away from when they ambush her on the campaign trail.

Wow. What’s next? “Dreamers for Trump”?

Some will say that the real estate mogul’s stance on immigration is evolving, or that he’s moderating his tone, or that he’s trying to appear less sensational and more serious.

But something else might be happening here. Trump could simply be going beyond his inflammatory sound bites about Mexico. He isn’t hedging, pandering or flip-flopping. No matter who is firing at him, he stands his ground.

If you’re pro-legal immigration and honest enough to admit that you don’t condone illegal immigration, and you’re tired of being sold out by politicians who tell you what you want to hear and then leave you hanging, isn’t this kind of steadfastness exactly what you want in a leader?

It’s a crazy world – one where you can be both pro-immigrant and pro-Trump.

Navarrette’s email is ruben