President Donald Trump announced this week that he was looking into the idea of ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants and their anchor babies, a move that would be highly controversial and, arguably, unconstitutional. Trump claims to have spoken to enough legal experts to believe that he can make the move through an executive order, but it remains to be seen. Without question, immigration activists will challenge the legitimacy of the order the moment it is signed. From there, we’ll have to wait and see what the courts say about the 14th Amendment and what it really means.
Before any order has even been drafted, however, several Republicans, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have weighed in with their thoughts. Ryan said in an interview Tuesday that he didn’t think the president had the authority.
“You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order,” Ryan said. “We didn’t like it when Obama tried changing immigration laws via executive action, and obviously as conservatives, we believe in the Constitution. I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.”
This did not sit well with President Trump, who tweeted Wednesday that Ryan, essentially, should mind his own business.
“Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about,” Trump wrote. “Our new Republican Majority will work on this, Closing the Immigration Loopholes and Securing our Border!”
Ryan isn’t the only Republican distancing themselves from Trump’s birthright citizenship proposal; Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania said bringing up such an idea in the last minutes of the midterm elections was akin to “political malpractice.”
“Suggesting in the closing days of a campaign that you can do this by executive order – if you think that this is helping in Florida and California districts, it’s not helping,” said Costello. “If we are going to be talking about an I-word right now, it should be infrastructure, not immigration.”
But Trump is not all on his own when it comes to changing the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment. After the original Axios interview came out, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he was thrilled to see the subject come up.
“Finally,” he tweeted, “a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship.”
In a follow-up, he wrote: “In addition, I plan to introduce legislation along the same lines as the proposed executive order from President.”
Trump said Wednesday that while he believed he had the authority to end the policy by executive order, his preference would be to see a law passed through Congress.