Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wants more than a wall along the US-Mexico border. He also wants to end “birthright citizenship” for the children of immigrants living in the US illegally, he said Sunday. And he would rescind Obama administration executive orders on immigration and toughen deportation, allowing in only “the good ones.”
Trump, the brash billionaire who has taken an early lead in the Republican primary race, described his expanded vision of how to secure American borders during a wide-ranging interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” saying that he would push to end the constitutionally protected citizenship rights of children of any family living illegally inside the US.
“They have to go,” Trump said, adding: “What they’re doing, they’re having a baby. And then all of a sudden, nobody knows … the baby’s here.”
Native-born children of immigrants — even those living illegally in the US — have been automatically considered American citizens since the adoption of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution in 1868.
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The odds of repealing the amendment’s citizenship clause would be steep, requiring the votes of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and support from three-fourths of the nation’s state legislatures. Republicans in Congress have pushed without success to repeal that provision since 2011. Some conservatives believe the provision could be changed without amending the Constitution.
“They’re illegal,” Trump said, describing native-born children of people living illegally in the US. “You either have a country or not.”
Trump, who remains a long-shot for the White House, has made immigration the focal point of his campaign since announcing his candidacy in June, when he described some Mexican immigrants in the US illegally as “rapists” and “criminals.” His tough stance on immigration has appealed to a segment of the Republican base and helped the former reality TV star vault ahead of the crowded Republican presidential field.
Trump’s immigration rhetoric has unnerved Republican leaders who want to woo the rapidly growing bloc of Hispanic voters, who have voted overwhelmingly Democratic in recent presidential elections.
Trump’s remarks came as his campaign website posted his program for “immigration reform.” Among its details: Making Mexico pay for a permanent border wall. Mandatory deportation of all “criminal aliens.” Tripling the force of immigration officers by eliminating tax credit payments to immigrant families residing illegally in the US.
He said that families with US-born children could return quickly if deemed worthy by the government. “We’re going to try and bring them back rapidly, the good ones,” he said, adding: “We will expedite it so people can come back in. The good people can come back.”
Trump did not elaborate on how he would define “good people.” But echoing earlier controversial remarks that Mexico was sending criminals across the border, Trump said a tough deportation policy was needed because “there’s definitely evidence” of crimes linked to immigrants living in the country illegally.
The New York real estate mogul also said he would waste little time rescinding President Barack Obama’s executive actions aimed at allowing as many as 3.7 million immigrants living illegally in the US to remain in the country because of their US-born relatives. Obama’s November 2014 actions were halted by temporary injunctions ordered by several federal courts in rulings challenging his executive powers to alter immigration policies without Congressional approval. The cases could wind up before the US Supreme Court.
“We have to make a whole new set of standards,” Trump said. “And when people come in, they have to come in legally.”
On Sunday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich echoed Trump’s call to finish construction of an incomplete system of barriers on the nation’s southern border with Mexico. There are still gaps in the barriers, which have been under construction since 2005.
Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Kasich said he would then work to legalize 12 million immigrants now estimated to live in the US illegally. Kasich said he would “make sure we don’t have anybody — any of the criminal element here.” He would also revive the guest-worker programs that previously brought in temporary workers to aid in farming and other industries hobbled by labor shortages.
Most other Republican candidates also back completing the border wall but differ over how to treat immigrant families already living in the US illegally. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush recently released his own immigration plan calling for the use of forward bases and drones to guard the border, but also backing an eventual plan to legalize the status of immigrant families. Bush disagrees with Obama’s use of executive actions to unilaterally enforce the policy.