COLUMBIA, S.C. — Donald Trump says he wants to stop giving U.S. citizenship to the children of immigrants who are born in this country, and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is happy to help.
The S.C. Republican came out in favor of the idea shortly after an interview with Trump was published Tuesday with the website Axios in which the Republican president said he would sign an executive order that would end the practice, despite birthright citizenship being written into the U.S. Constitution.
“Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship,” Graham said in a statement. “In addition, I plan to introduce legislation along the same lines as the proposed executive order from President Trump.”
Critics quickly labeled the proposal unconstitutional.
The Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees that, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
The purpose of the amendment, from the Reconstruction period of U.S. history, was to ensure that children of newly liberated slaves would be recognized as U.S. citizens. Longstanding precedent is to recognize any child born in the United States is a citizen, regardless of the citizenship or residency status of the child’s parents.
But Trump tells Axios that he has been told by unspecified advisers that, “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But, now, they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
Graham didn’t specify what kind of legislation he would introduce to change the longstanding practice. Other countries limit citizenship to children with at least one parent who is a citizen at the time of their birth.
In the past, Graham has been seen as a key Republican supporter of efforts to reform the immigration system overall, even as he has opposed automatic citizenship at birth.
“I’ve always supported comprehensive immigration reform — and at the same time — the elimination of birthright citizenship,” Graham said.
“The United States is one of two developed countries in the world who grant citizenship based on location of birth,” with the other being Canada, he said. “This policy is a magnet for illegal immigration, out of the mainstream of the developed world, and needs to come to an end.”
Some three dozen less-developed countries also offer automatic citizenship to children born on their soil, mostly in Latin America.
Any attempt to change the citizenship rules — short of a constitutional amendment — likely would trigger a court challenge. But the issue is likely to play well with the president’s supporters a week before the midterm election.
In recent weeks, Trump has spoken often at rallies about the need to stop a caravan of roughly 4,000 migrants walking across Mexico from Central America in hopes of being allowed to enter the United States. That caravan is about 1,000 miles south of the U.S. border.
Trump’s proposal — and Graham’s support of it — garnered immediate opposition from some groups.
The S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center, which advocates for low-income South Carolinians, called the proposal “unconstitutional and fundamentally unAmerican,” adding it is “little more than a desperate political ploy to encourage turnout for the midterm elections next week among Trump’s most extreme racist and nativist supporter.”
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