- The Washington Times
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

President Trump lashed out at House Speaker Paul D. Ryan Wednesday over birthright citizenship, telling the GOP leader on Capitol Hill he “knows nothing” about the issue and should butt out.

“Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the majority rather than giving his opinions on birthright citizenship, something he knows nothing about!” the president said on Twitter. “Our new Republican majority will work on this, closing the immigration loopholes and securing our border!”

The tweet came a day after Mr. Trump revealed he was planning to sign an executive order trying to end birthright citizenship — and met with fierce resistance from across the political spectrum.

Mr. Ryan said using an executive order would be adopting the same tactics Republicans criticized President Barack Obama for on immigration. And the Wisconsin Republican said the Constitution’s 14th Amendment is “pretty clear” in granting American citizenship to nearly anyone born on U.S. soil.

That latter assertion is legally dubious.

The 14th Amendment assigns automatic citizenship to those born “born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” The key question is what it means to be “subject to the jurisdiction.”

While most legal scholars say that likely covers births to illegal immigrants, the Supreme Court has never ruled squarely on the question and there is room for doubt.

Mr. Trump on Wednesday pointed to former Sen. Harry Reid, the one-time Democratic party floor leader, who in 1993 called for ending birthright citizenship as part of a tough illegal immigrant crackdown.

“Harry Reid, when he was sane, agreed with us on birthright citizenship!” the president tweeted.

Mr. Reid, in a statement Wednesday, called his 1993 proposal “a mistake.”

“After I proposed that awful bill, my wife Landra immediately sat me down and said, ‘Harry, what are you doing, don’t you know that my father is an immigrant?’ She set me straight,” Mr. Reid said.

“This president wants to destroy not build, to stoke hatred instead of unify. He can tweet whatever he wants while he sits around watching TV, but he is profoundly wrong,” the former senator added.

While Mr. Trump stirred matters by proposing an executive order, he seemed to lessen the focus on that avenue Wednesday, instead saying it was an issue Congress would work on.

That would suggest he’s no longer looking at an executive order but rather legislation, which analysts said would be a more legally sound way to test the 14th Amendment’s boundaries.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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