House Speaker Paul D. Ryan poured cold water Tuesday on President Trump’s plan to issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants, saying “you obviously cannot do that.”
Mr. Ryan said it is hypocritical for a Republican president to do what the GOP complained about under President Obama in using executive powers to try to rewrite immigration law.
But he also went further and said he sees the constitutional question as settled, guaranteeing citizenship to most people born on U.S. soil even if to illegal immigrant parents.
“You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. We didn’t like it when Obama tried to change immigration laws with executive actions,” he told WVLK radio in Kentucky.
He added: “Obviously as conservatives we believe in the Constitution. I think in this case the 14th Amendment’s pretty clear, and that would involve a very very lengthy constitutional process.”
Mr. Trump told online political outlet Axios in an interview released Tuesday that he will pursue an executive order on birthright citizenship.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Ryan told WVLK there’s room for an argument over the constitutional question, but said there’s no doubt the president is wrong about being able to use an executive order.
“What is very clear is you can’t change this via executive fiat. At the very least it would have to be statutory through Congress,” he said.
The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, says that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
Legal scholars say the debate is over what it means to be “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”