“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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