Here’s a running list of GOP candidates who want to end birthright citizenship

Donald Trump put the entire Republican field on nativist watch over the weekend when he released his immigration policy specifics, which include ending birthright citizenship. Trump followed up the release by saying, “We’re going to keep the families together, but they have to go,” implying that not only would he end birthright citizenship, he would either retroactively revoke it for American-born children of immigrants or deport them, despite their legal status.

It is at once the most incoherent, most expensive, most unenforceable and the most conservative immigration plan ever conceived. This means, of course, that the rest of the Republican field now has to engage with the crazy.

Immigration, via Shutterstock.

Immigration, via Shutterstock.

As of right now, at least eight Republican presidential candidates have at some point either questioned or outwardly opposed granting citizenship to anyone born in the country, a policy codified in the first line of the Fourteenth Amendment and understood as common law when our country was founded. Many of those candidates went on the record as such yesterday as a reaction to the release of Trump’s plan. As I wrote yesterday, Trump is setting the terms of the Republican debate on immigration, taking any hopes the party had of moderating itself on the issue and throwing them off the roof of Trump Tower.

Jeb Bush

Jeb! dismissed Trump’s plan as implausible and impractical, but accepted its ideals, saying in South Carolina that “There are like ten things I would change in the Constitution with a magic wand,” before listing all of the immigration policies he thinks are achievable “in the interim.” Bush’s implication was that birthright citizenship was one of those ten things he considers good ideas that don’t fall in the realm of possibility. No word on what the other nine were, but they would definitely make for a great listicle.

Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal entered the United States as a fetus, but that didn’t stop the son of immigrants from tweeting an emphatic rejection of the birthright citizenship that he himself claimed:

To be clear, Jindal’s position — even in tweet form — is slightly more nuanced than Trump’s. He’s for ending birthright citizenship, but only for children of people here in the country illegally. You know, like how Texas hospitals are already refusing to issue birth certificates for children whose parents have Mexican passports.

Scott Walker

Scott Walker was one of the first candidates to give Donald Trump’s immigration plan a massive bear hug, saying that his plan and Trump’s were “very similar.” However, Walker displayed his signature foreign policy ignorance when he elaborated on his plan by saying that his version of the Great Wall of Texas should be modeled after the separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories:

Setting aside for the moment the fact that in this analogy, Walker is either portraying Mexico as an occupied territory or Gaza as an independent state, looking at the train wreck of historic proportions that is the separation wall and saying “Yes, good. Let’s do that here,” is fifty shades of insane. It’s one thing to be for reducing illegal immigration; it’s quite another thing to suggest that we treat undocumented immigrants from Central and South America the same way the Israeli government treats Palestinians.

John Kasich, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum

As the Huffington Post summarized yesterday, while none of these candidates have yet weighed in on Trump’s comments directly, they are already on record opposing birthright citizenship:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said recently that he didn’t think the party needed to go that far in trying to crack down on illegal immigration. But during his run for governor in 2010, according to the Columbus Dispatch, he reiterated his longtime support for ending birthright citizenship.

When Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul first ran for the Senate in 2010, he said he didn’t “think the 14th Amendment was meant to apply to illegal aliens.” He has since pushed for a constitutional amendment. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said the issue needs to be re-examined as well.

Rick Santorum called for an end to birthright citizenship in a Breitbart post this past May.

This batch of candidates goes to show that while Donald Trump has spent his entire candidacy dragging the Republican field to the right on immigration, a sizable chunk of the field was already over there. Coming out against birthright citizenship wouldn’t be a major evolution for many of these candidates; for some, it would be a restatement of positions they’ve already taken.

Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham told Wolf Blitzer yesterday that while Trump’s immigration plan was “absolute gibberish” and “unworkable” overall, he’s still in favor of getting rid of birthright citizenship:

I don’t mind changing that law. I think it’s a bad practice to give citizenship based on birth. We have evidence of people buying tourist visas for the express purpose of coming over here and having a child. It’s birth tourism.

Graham, who is one of the more vocal supporters of comprehensive immigration reform in the Republican field, did qualify his comments to say that ending birthright citizenship “comes second,” after fixing the immigration system as a whole.

There are a number of candidates who have previously come out against ending birthright citizenship, including Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee. There is also a handful of candidates who have not yet weighed in on the issue, including bottom-tier candidates such as Jim Gilmore and George Pataki and, oddly, Texan candidates Ricky Perry and Ted Cruz (never mind about Cruz! see update). One would think they would have come down one way or the other on the issue by now, but then again, Ted Cruz may want to avoid questions about the definition of citizenship altogether.

In any case, as candidates continue to get dragged to the right by Trump’s ethnocentric ramblings, it is not only possible but likely that we’ll see a more sizable chunk of the Republican field on this list. I’ll update it here if any of them evolve.

UPDATE 8/19: And we’re up to nine! Ben Carson said at a rally in Phoenix yesterday that the idea of birthright citizenship “doesn’t make any sense to me.

LATE UPDATE 8/19: Never mind about Ted Cruz! He’s been on this list for a while, now. Cruz filled out an issue survey from NumbersUSA, a prominent anti-immigration organization, indicating that he supported ending birthright citizenship. He endorsed every policy put forward by the organization in the survey.


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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19 Responses to “Here’s a running list of GOP candidates who want to end birthright citizenship”

  1. Duke Woolworth says:

    Maybe Trump and the rest (and their kids) would like a nice position picking the strawberries some of our visitors do now.
    Maybe they’d like to contribute to the social network they’ll never qualify to get.
    Maybe they’d like to join the military in an effort to qualify for citizenship.
    Maybe they’d like to join the prisoners and non-union laborers building the wall in 114 degree heat.

  2. PattyJM says:

    A LOT of money.

    http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-08-05/donald-trump-s-deportation-of-immigrants-would-be-costly

    One paragraph from that article:

    “The pro-immigration (and conservative) American Action Forum is less sanguine. It reported
    that a combination of forcible and voluntary deportation would cost
    $420 to $619 billion over 20 years. Meanwhile, real gross domestic
    product would decline by 5.7 percent, or almost $1.6 trillion.”

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  4. FLL says:

    Donald Trump’s anti-immigration platform (and the other Republican candidates showing respect for it) is making it increasingly obvious that what I have said on previous thread (links here and here) is actually coming to pass: the Republican Party (what’s left of it) has become a nativist movement, echoing some of the anti-immigration rhetoric that made the Ku Klux Klan so politically successful during the 1920s.

    The dead giveaway was on last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, when Trump said he would be fine with banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The following is a summary of Trump’s remarks on Meet the Press:

    He [Trump] also said he’s willing to back recent court decisions banning private companies from firing employees because of their sexual orientation — and that he himself agrees with the decision.

    Trump is willing to disregard the fundamentalist Christians and concentrate on anti-Mexican-immigrant animus. He seems to think that this is the way to win a good number of Republican primaries, and he may be right. Regarding the few remaining registered Republicans, Ann Coulter was prescient when she sounded the alarm about avoiding the point when Mexican immigration would finally doom the Republican Party’s chance of electoral success. Her semi-witticism was “El Tipping Pointo.” Will the GOP’s new nativist incarnation lead them to the same fate as the Whigs? Stay tuned for the next installment of the Republican soap opera. This is getting fun.

  5. Elizabeth Ann Stewart says:

    Donald Trump’s mother was an immigrant from Scotland. Can we deport him? Both of his paternal grandparents were immigrants from Germany. Can we send him back to Europe? They are having an immigration problem over there, and he seems to be an authority on the subject, so maybe he could help them out.

  6. wmforr says:

    Money? No, no. He’ll make Mexico pay for it. Or, if not them, ISIS. Or… someone.

  7. 2karmanot says:

    It will give ‘forfeiture’ Republicans a closer step to fascism. IE. Michigan.

  8. 2karmanot says:

    Bingo

  9. 2karmanot says:

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Build that ridiculous wall and enforce border crossings if Rambo is your metier AND grant amnesty and a path to full citizenship to all millions of illegals in the country not criminals at present. They are hard workers, pay taxes and in all regards outstanding citizens, who want what my ancestors wanted: opportunity, family security and a path to freedom in Democracy. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than having a future non-white majority in the ole’ Home of the free and land of the racist.

  10. 2karmanot says:

    The little fetus Piyush is a foreigner!

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  12. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I know. I shuddered when I first heard of Trump saying that. Also, his plan would drain the country of a lot of money.

  13. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Why five years? If they’re in the country for less than 5 years, they’re still there legally. Should they be prohibited from having sex?

    Nicho, I don’t know if you are gay or straight, but I am gay. I know what it is like to be treated differently from the rest of the population. That is what you are suggesting.

  14. Houndentenor says:

    If they want to strip “anchor babies” of citizenship, maybe they should start with Bobby Jindal.

  15. Indigo says:

    I’m good with revoking the 21st Amendment. The rest can stand as they are although the “well regulated” clause in the 2nd one needs tighter enforcement.

  16. nicho says:

    I’m against revoking birthright citizenship retroactively, but I would support changing it going forward. Few other countries have it the same way we do. In some countries, you are a citizen if you are born in the country to parents who have been there legally for five years. Some variation of that would make sense.

    That would end the current practices of citizenship tourism. There are well-off couples who fly into the US for an extended vacation, have a kid, and then fly back home. This gives the kid the advantage of American citizenship, even though he/she is living in the lap of luxury back home.

  17. Midge Baker says:

    I cannot understate the idiocy of this idea. It’s the slipperiest slope I’ve ever seen. End birthright citizenship and THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER NATIVE-BORNE AMERICAN.

    First the Mexicans. But where does it end? How many generations back will it be applied? Who’s next? Jews? Italians? Asians?

    Remember: “First they came for…”

  18. percysowner says:

    Although he’ll never say it, I suspect Jeb would happily dump the 14th Amendment and the one giving women the right to vote. He probably would dump the 24th Amendment – the one that doesn’t let states charge a poll tax as well. No idea on the rest, however.

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