Republicans and the politics of birthright citizenship

Let us consider the problems here. From a political perspective, you are going after the children of illegal immigrants, a population that has been declining for several years. About seven percent of American K-12 students have at least one illegal immigrant parent according to Pew. To go after their American status – or as Donald Trump wishes, to deport them en masse along with their illegal parents – will be a daunting political and legal proposition. Even the editors of National Review, who are overwhelmingly fans of Donald Trump’s plan, pronounce birthright citizenship a bridge too far: “Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship is sure to be the most controversial element of the plan, but it is also sure to be a nonstarter. While birthright citizenship is abused now, ending it would be a Herculean task politically and the Supreme Court is unlikely to be cooperative.”

In this, they are correct. First, to eliminate birthright citizenship requires a Constitutional Amendment, which will not happen. (I’m serious. This is never going to happen. The discussion is moot.) Second, endorsing eliminating birthright citizenship creates a new horde of political enemies – forget the millions who have benefited from this policy, anyone who knows anyone who is a birthright citizen is going to view this effort as an act of xenophobic rage. Third, it creates no new friends to offset these new enemies – anyone who is opposed to birthright citizenship was likely already your supporter anyway. And fourth, it runs counter to every major American historical narrative about what we believe about the possibilities of our nation, where we came from and where we are going.

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