Retiring Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., on Tuesday broke with President Donald Trump on a potential executive order ending birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens.
In an interview with Axios, President Trump announced a plan to end citizenship for babies of non-citizens via executive order, bypassing Congress. Ryan said Tuesday that “you obviously cannot do that,” comparing the suggested executive action to President Barack Obama’s illegal DACA amnesty.
Paul Ryan: "Well you obviously cannot do that. You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. We didn’t like it when Obama tried changing
immigration laws via executive action, and obviously as conservatives we
believe in the Constitution." https://t.co/D37Hg7KZ2l
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) October 30, 2018
Trump told Axios that he does not need a constitutional amendment to make the change, or even an act of Congress.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said.
“You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order,” Trump added. “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous and it has to end.”
Is Ryan or Trump right? That’s in dispute. The question of birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens has never been formally decided by a U.S. court. Some argue that the text of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees citizenship by birthright for anyone born in the United States. Conservative Review senior editor Daniel Horowitz argues that an originalist interpretation of the Constitution rejects birthright citizenship, adding that it is inconsistent with the social compact theory of the American Founding.
Each coequal branch of the United States government has the power and duty to interpret the Constitution. In an area where there is legitimate dispute, the executive branch reserves the right to challenge a standing interpretation of the Constitution, which Trump can do with his proposed executive order. The other branches of government may in turn challenge the executive branch. It is certain that a birthright citizenship executive order would be challenged in court. Should the courts rule against Trump, he must either comply with the ruling or channel President Andrew Jackson and ignore the court’s opinion. In that instance, Congress might become the decider in the dispute. Impeachment is the tool at Congress’ disposal if a majority of the people’s representatives agrees with the court’s interpretation of the Constitution and decides the president acted unlawfully. Otherwise, if Congress were to let Trump’s hypothetical order stand, then two coequal branches of government have outweighed the third. This is how our system constitutional system was intended to function.
If the country disagrees with the opinions of Trump and the Congress, the ultimate recourse is at the ballot box, where they can be voted out of office.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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