Mike Huckabee yesterday contradicted his own top immigration surrogate, announcing he will not support a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to illegal aliens.
It was a stark reversal after The Washington Times reported that James Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, said Mr. Huckabee promised to pursue an amendment to the Constitution. In an article in yesterday’s editions, Mr. Huckabee’s spokeswoman did not challenge the former Arkansas governor’s statements to Mr. Gilchrist and said the two men shared the same goals on immigration.
But by yesterday afternoon, Mr. Huckabee had backed away from that position.
“I do not support an amendment to the Constitution that would prevent children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens from automatically becoming American citizens. I have no intention of supporting a constitutional amendment to deny birthright citizenship,” Mr. Huckabee said in a statement posted on his campaign Web site.
The Times reported that Mr. Gilchrist, in a half-hour conversation while campaigning with Mr. Huckabee last week in Iowa, pinned down the Republican presidential candidate on various immigration stances, including how he would address what most legal scholars see as the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to any person born in the United States, except for diplomatic situations.
Mr. Gilchrist said Mr. Huckabee promised to bring a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge the matter, and also would press Congress to pass an amendment to the Constitution.
In an interview with CNN, the candidate said his campaign was not contacted about the story: “It was disappointing the reporter who filed the report never bothered to contact our campaign,” he said.
But Mr. Huckabee’s spokeswoman, Kirsten Fedewa, did talk to The Times for the article. She did not challenge any of Mr. Gilchrist’s statements at the time, and was quoted as saying Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Gilchrist were “united by a mutual desire to end illegal immigration and are political allies toward that end.”
In a statement to The Times yesterday evening, Mr. Huckabee acknowledged his campaign was asked about the story.
“I was asked to respond to questions by The Washington Times about my position regarding presidential pardons for imprisoned U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean and about personal e-mail correspondence by one of my supporters,” Mr. Huckabee said. “We responded to those questions.
“If the Supreme Court chooses to review lower-court decisions regarding the 14th Amendment, that is their prerogative, but my priorities for constitutional amendments are to protect human life and traditional marriage,” he said in the statement.
Mr. Huckabee also said on CNN that he hasn’t given much thought to the issue of birthright citizenship. But he previously had taken a position in an interview with The Times on his campaign bus in Iowa in August.
“I would support changing that. I think there is reason to revisit that, just because a person, through sheer chance of geography, happened to be physically here at the point of birth, doesn’t necessarily constitute citizenship,” he said at the time, according to the audiotape of the interview. “I think that’s a very reasonable thing to do, to revisit that.”
Mr. Gilchrist did not respond to repeated phone calls and e-mails yesterday asking about the discrepancy, but in a 42-minute telephone call Sunday he told The Times that Mr. Huckabee promised him these things in their half-hour private conversation.
“I read back my notes to him twice and I told him I did not want to put words in his mouth,” he said. “The guy looked me right in the eye.”