“Is the 14th Amendment constitutional?” is now a serious question in the Republican primary

Donald Trump appeared on The O’Reilly Factor last night to defend his immigration plan, which borrows ideas from the Trail of Tears, 1984 and the Great Wall of China in an immoral, impractical attempt to take 11 million undocumented immigrants — along with an untold number of their family members who have legal status — and teleport them back to, as Trump would say, “wherever.”

As Trump said on Sunday, “We’re going to keep the families together, but they have to go.”

By Tuesday evening, however, Trump’s position had changed. We don’t have to worry about deporting American citizens because Trump’s not sure the children of undocumented immigrants are citizens in the first place:

Said Trump:

I don’t think [children of undocumented immigrants] have American citizenship, and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers — some would disagree. But many of them agree with me — you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship.

Of course, if that’s the case, then why bother ending birthright citizenship? According to Trump, it already doesn’t exist!

Donald Trump, screenshot via YouTube

Donald Trump, screenshot via YouTube

But that’s not all, or even most, of what Trump had to say to O’Reilly. When the host of The Factor pointed out that the 14th Amendment unequivocally says that people who are born within America’s borders are American citizens, Trump rejected the premise, saying, “Bill, I think you’re wrong about that and frankly the whole thing about anchor babies…Many lawyers are saying that’s not the way it is in terms of this,” adding that, “they’re saying it’s not going to hold up in court.”

Which lawyers? We don’t know. Maybe the same ones who say you can’t rape your spouse.

In any case, Donald Trump made clear to O’Reilly that he intends to “test it,” in office, using the powers of the presidency to determine whether children of undocumented immigrants — birth certificates, Social Security cards and all — are in fact citizens.

As ridiculous as this argument is, we are once again at a point where the things Donald Trump says resonate with Republican voters to the point at which everyone else has to engage with them. As TalkingPointsMemo’s Josh Marshall wrote earlier today, on ending birthright citizenship (emphasis added):

Just as a practical matter it seems highly, highly unlikely anyone could pull that off since amending the Constitution is so difficult. On the other hand, conservative legal writers and polemicists are now saying you can just interpret the constitution differently and get rid of birthright citizenship that way. At National Review Online Andrew McCarthy crows that it’s “not hard to read the 14th Amendment as not requiring birthright citizenship.” Funny – except when you realize that in recent years it’s usually only taken a couple years for plainly ridiculous far right legal theories to jump from the blogosphere to at least four votes on the Supreme Court.

“Is the 14th Amendment to the Constitution constitutional?” just became a serious question in the Republican primary. God bless America.



Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • disqus_tu7SEHpgGp

    2karmanot : “actual number, 800, was chilling.”

    Drinking beer in the Munich beer hall that Hitler spoke, I noticed that, originally, it held only some 200, max.

  • disqus_tu7SEHpgGp

    So, if the 14th is not enforceable, what about the 2nd?

  • nitestik

    So, the Constitution is itself unconstitutional. We are officially down the rabbit hole.

  • DoverBill

    Because God has forgiven Josh… again?

  • DoverBill

    There is no way I can possibly get my head around a statement that espouses an amendment in the constitution is illegal!

    I realize that the wave that (now) supports The Donald Trump are the low-hanging dregs of whatever is left of the bagger movement, but someone (Hi there Frankie?) has now decided that these zombie-thinkers can be convinced that the constitution is (please God, what the fuck did you create in your own image) itself is unconstitutional?

    I thoroughly enjoyed the train wreck that became the 2012 republican primary and their fine, fine obviously dumb-fuck base that displayed a penchant for changing the one to lead their country weekly (or weakly) apparently, on whatever stupid fucking soundbite of the day?

    But now, this blatant insanity is actually starting to give me pause as making fun of the barking-mad
    republican voter is starting to shift from the ridiculously easy to outright scary.

    Can the conservative talk machine(s) possible become even more insane?

  • Indigo

    That’s how I feel about it too but I’m in good health and aging gracefully. After a lifetime of cautious dissipation. What was I thinking?

  • 2karmanot

    Hopefully I’ll be gone by then.

  • Indigo

    See . . . there’s our secret government, the International Conglomerates. This is becoming increasingly obvious. I wonder where the tipping point in time is? A decade away?

  • 2karmanot

    The Terrorist Topee know!

  • 2karmanot

    Well, here’s one way of looking at this: Nadir low grade intelligence is a form of perfection in itself. le Petite Bushie is a perfect example of the mini-max.

  • 2karmanot

    The global presence of mega corporations now trump nation state sovereignty. International trade agreements like NAFTA are only the tip of the iceberg. Bill P’s insistent cries that both parties are the same is mostly correct in the finial analysis of where power lies. The Clinton’s are squarely at the heart of it, as are most of the minor Republicans war lords owned by the Kochs or Vice bucks like Zionist Adelson.

  • 2karmanot

    Because: Christian Dominion and Fascism. ‘The Hand Maiden’s Tale’

  • 2karmanot

    When debt became asset and Justice became a commodity, America ceased being the nation of impartial laws.

  • 2karmanot

    Watching Trump blather on at his first Town Hall meeting ( attended by tens of thousands, of course) actual number, 800, was chilling. I kept getting deja vu from old documentary films of the late twenties and early thirties. Trump is dangerous and the fact he has a huge following among the GOP is of considerable concern for those of us who cherished the old Republic. Trump is no clown. He is at heart a bloody fascist. Trump is a would-be nativist American Mussolini.

  • AndyinChicago

    Look, the only amendment that’s constitutional is the second. Pew Pew Pew! And maybe part of the first that says that this is a Christian Country. Everything else is for haters and losers. (You can take the 19th and shove it ladies).

  • MoonDragon

    When you cannot prevail under the rules of the game, change the rules.

  • maggiejtillson




    ➽➽➽➽ Tinyurl.com/Start18zApplyCareers13q




  • Any law changing the status of citizenship that has already been granted would be an ex post facto law, specifically forbidden in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution.

    There’s always something.

  • nicho

    Headline: Supreme Court rules that Constitution is unconstitutional.

    That’s when I leave.

  • True that.

  • Don Chandler

    I know it’s unpopular to say this on AB, but: well, Obama was elected. And that guy set the bar very very high in intelligence. Ofc, he isn’t exactly popular with half the electorate…but not because he isn’t intelligent.

  • Don Chandler

    “His grandfather Friedrich and grandmother Elisabeth were born in Germany and emigrated to the United States. Their son Fred Trumpmarried Donald Trump’s mother Mary Ann MacLeod, who was born in Scotland and met Donald Trump’s father during a vacation trip to New York.”–any search will tell you.

  • Outspoken1

    Would the American Indians please deport Trump!?! BTW – many Hispanics were in ‘America’ before the creation of America (the original 13 colonies) and then the expansion which took land from the British, Spanish, French, and the always forgotten American Indians (http://mappinghistory.uoregon.edu/english/US/US09-01.html ).

  • Al Gore was a more recent example. But yeah… Stevenson. McGovern. Mondale. All examples of guys who were clearly far more intelligent and educated than their opponents, but the American electorate doesn’t seem to like the very smart.

    As Stephen Colbert once said (paraphrasing heavily), Americans don’t like to be talked to and reasoned with. They crave to have base emotions felt at them.

  • Indigo

    I read “burgled” then I read it again. I’m afraid both apply. But your point is well taken. The Democrats have been throwing away opportunities all through this administration. I can’t think of a one of the establishment Democrats that hasn’t bungled something. That leaves Bernie, I suspect, and I still hesitate over that. He puts me in mind of Adlai Stevenson. (I was in middle school then.) My uncle voted for Stevenson but he also said he didn’t think Stevenson could win because Americans don’t like to elect people who are too obviously intelligent. I think that remains a correct reading of the electorate.

  • Because all it takes is a bungled Democratic candidate’s campaign to push the election close enough to steal again.

  • Indigo

    Yeah . . .

  • Doug105

    Bush /cough /cough 2 terms /cough /cough /cough /cough /cough /cough

  • Well, the Republicans did redefine torture not to be torture, thereby making it legal.

    America is a nation of laws, not of men, but only if those men respect the supremacy of the law. Otherwise, the Constitution is just a piece of paper for ass-wiping.

  • sonoitabear

    Just when you think the Insane Clown Posse can’t get any more insane…

  • Indigo

    Why are we treating this Parade of Clowns seriously?

  • sukabi

    further proof that the goal of the R’s is to destroy the constitution. the bellows of “We are the true patriots” rings a bit hollow.

    1st amendment as long as it only applies to their beliefs
    2nd as long as you leave out the “well regulated militia” part of the 2nd.

    and calling for the removal of the 14th.

    between this nonsense and the secession movement of the previous election season someone needs to get them on record on which other parts of the constitution they’d like to do away with. And explain exactly HOW that makes them fit to be President, let alone dog catcher.

  • Doug105
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