Poor Walker, who’s now getting a taste of how Rand Paul felt after he got Trumped. Rand spent five years cultivating his image as the Republican you should support for president if you’re tired of how Republicans in Washington do business. Trump swept him aside and filled that role within a month. Now here’s Walker, who spent the first few months of the year desperately trying to atone for his previous squishiness on immigration as a pol in Wisconsin by taking the hardest line in the GOP field on amnesty, including heavy hints that he might reduce legal immigration as president to protect American workers. Two months after Trump got into the race talking about Mexican rapists and a day after he finally revealed his immigration plan, Walker’s reduced to telling reporters that Trump’s plan is a lot like his own and that, like Trump, he too would eliminate birthright citizenship for children born to illegals inside the U.S. That’s a controversial position, one possibly further to the right than even Walker would have been willing to go had Trump not joined the race. But that’s the power of Trumpmania: It’s capable of moving the entire field towards a stronger conservative stance, at least on select issues.
How controversial is it really, though, to oppose birthright citizenship for illegals? Trump noted a poll yesterday that found the public opposes it by a two-to-one margin. What Walker says here about Harry Reid having once opposed it is entirely true, although Reid recanted many years later. Rand Paul opposed it in 2010, when he first ran for Senate. George Will, the new establishment bete noire among the commentariat for Trump fans, came out against it the same year. Amazingly, even Lindsey Graham, Mr. Amnesty, opposed it. Seriously! Watch the second clip below (also from 2010) for the video proof. How many GOP candidates this year will argue that illegals should be allowed to punch their ticket to permanent residency simply by stealing across the border and giving birth before they’re found out?
The closest any Republican contender’s going to get to embracing birthright citizenship for illegals now that Trump’s made it a populist flashpoint is, I think, the argument laid out here by border-hawk extraordinaire Mark Krikorian. The practice should be ended, he says — but not for kids already born here. Tear away their civic connection to the only country they’ve known and you’re risking a European-style disaffected, dispossessed minority with no buy-in to the society they live in:
Ending birthright citizenship would have some unexpected consequences, Motomura noted. Millions of young Americans would be unable to work legally, reducing the labor force and the overall strength of the economy.
Additionally, many babies could be born without citizenship in any country if the laws of their parents’ native country didn’t extend citizenship to them. It is hard to know how many would fall into this category.
Krikorian opposes birthright citizenship, but he argues that ending birthright citizenship would only be possible along with amnesty for those undocumented immigrants already in the country so that their children would be citizens. Otherwise, he said, he would be worried about the unauthorized population—unable to work and without any legal connection to their native country.
“It’s a lot of people,” said Krikorian. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Oh well. Keeping up with the Trumps will require everyone in the field to oppose birthright citizenship in some qualified manner at least. Just one question: What role would the president play, exactly, in changing the policy? The current definition of natural-born citizenship in the Fourteenth Amendment is based on Supreme Court rulings. Either the Court would have to overrule itself or, as Graham suggests below, you’d have to do this via constitutional amendment rather than passing a law, which means the president would be reduced to lobbying Congress. There are arguments out there that the definition could be changed by a simple statute, but that too would require a SCOTUS ruling. And even then, how likely is it that that statute would make it past a Democratic filibuster in the Senate? But we needn’t overthink this. All this is, really, is a placemarker issue for measuring how tough each Republican candidate is on illegals. If you’re competing for the conservative vote, you’re against birthright citizenship for illegals’ kids, whether that’s feasible or not.
Update: Here you go. If this wasn’t the orthodox conservative position before, it will be soon.
We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.
— Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) August 17, 2015