Trump wants to end ‘birthright citizenship’
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, who has been campaigning intensely on immigration ahead of next week’s congressional elections, said in a television interview that he is “in the process” of preparing an executive order to end the right to citizenship for children born in the United States to parents who are here illegally.
“It’ll happen,” he said in an interview with Axios scheduled to air on HBO this weekend. The news site released a portion of the interview Tuesday morning.
Trump did not lay out specifics, including a timeline, making his plans uncertain.
In the past, he has promised to take up some issues in short order and then failed to do so. At other times, his public comments foretell actual policy plans.
Trump’s words have been especially unreliable in the run-up to the midterm elections, promising, for example, that Congress would approve a new tax cut before next week’s election, even though they are not in session.
In this case, he is wading into a difficult legal dispute. Most legal scholars have said that eliminating birthright citizenship would require a constitutional amendment. Even those who have argued that Congress could act without changing the Constitution haven’t said a president could do so by fiat.
The Constitution’s 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”
That language has been widely interpreted to guarantee the right to citizenship for those born on American soil. Trump now claims otherwise.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said in the interview. “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, accused Trump of trying to “sow division and fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms.”
“The president cannot erase the Constitution with an executive order, and the 14th Amendment’s citizenship guarantee is clear,” he said.
White House and administration officials would not comment. Many were hoping to keep the day’s focus on Trump’s trip to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The trip was intended to console the community where 11 Jewish people were murdered in a synagogue on Saturday.
The city’s mayor and some Jewish leaders had already asked Trump to delay or skip the visit. Robert Bowers, the accused gunman, had echoed some of Trump’s hard-line immigration views and used social media to attack HIAS, a Jewish-founded group that helps resettle refugees.
Trump condemned the attack in strong terms, but he returned quickly to his anti-immigrant rhetoric, even using the term “invasion” — the same word used by Bowers in his social media posts — to describe a migrant caravan that is about 900 miles from the southern U.S. border.
Trump has long seen political value in hard-line immigration proposals. He differentiated himself from a crowded Republican primary field by promising in 2015 to “end birthright citizenship … the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.”
The strong position forced his opponents to either adapt Trump’s views, and look like they were copying him, or confront him and defend his accusations that they were weak on immigration.
Trump’s tactics hardened the Republican Party’s stance and helped him secure the nomination.
Republicans have long been conflicted on the citizenship issue. In 1996, for example, the party platform endorsed an end to birthright citizenship, but the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. Bob Dole, renounced the idea.
Polls this year have shown immigration to be a strong motivator for Republican voters, although not for others.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, for example, found that more Republican voters, 25 percent, chose immigration as the most important issue in deciding who to vote for in next week’s elections than any other issue. The issue ranked just ahead of the economy and jobs for Republican voters.
But the poll also showed how the issue moves Trump’s core supporters more than the rest of the public. Among Democrats, only 9 percent ranked immigration as the top issue while among Independents, only 15 percent said that. Those two groups were far more interested in health care.
©2018 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194):
GRAPHIC (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194):