A week ahead of the midterm elections, U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to bolster his anti-immigration platform by declaring a plan to remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born in the United States.
According to his interview with Axios, released in part on Tuesday, Trump revealed that he has run the idea of ending birthright citizenship by his counsel and plans to proceed with the move, which has already stirred controversy and would certainly spark a court fight.
"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... with all of those benefits," Trump said. "It's ridiculous. And it has to end."
Birthright citizenship in the United States is enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the constitution, which allows for "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
It is also a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which reinforced the practice, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
A 2010 study from the Washington D.C.-based think tank, which supports immigration restrictions, showed that 30 countries offered birthright citizenship.
To change the constitution requires a two thirds majority in Congress, but Trump insisted that he can do it with an executive order.
"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."
"It's in the process. It'll happen... with an executive order," he added.
The president has long called for an end to birthright citizenship, as have many conservatives.
The proposal has immediately won support within the GOP, while some lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, were questioning whether he could use executive order to do away with birthright citizenship.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a ally of the president, said he plans to introduce legislation "along the same lines" as the proposed executive order from Trump.
Granting citizenship based on location of birth is "a magnet for illegal immigration" and "needs to come to an end," the South Carolina senator tweeted.
Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump plan may not be unconstitutional, telling Politico in an interview that while "we all cherish" the 14th amendment, the nation's top court has not weighed in on the issue entirely.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled on whether or not the language of the 14th amendment, subject to the jurisdiction thereof, applies specifically to people who are in the country illegally," Pence said.
However, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the president can't end birthright citizenship on his own.
The top Republican tells a local radio station in state of Kentucky, "Well you obviously cannot do that. You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order."
Democratic Senator Mark Warner said Trump has the right to raise the debate, but "no serious legal scholar thinks that's real."
Warner, of Virginia, told CNN that Trump was trying to "bring back fears around immigration" in the last week before the midterm elections, which was a key factor in his victory in the 2016 presidential election.
"This is a blatantly unconstitutional attempt to fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said of the proposed executive order on Twitter.
"The 14th Amendment's citizenship guarantee is clear," the ACLU tweeted. "You can't erase the Constitution with an executive order."
White House lawyers reportedly expect to work with the Department of Justice Department to develop a legal justification for the action.
Administration officials said there likely would be no decisions until after the midterms.
Trump's comments were made public as the highly-contested midterm elections are drawing near, which could see Democrats seizing control of at least part of the Republican-held Congress.
Trump has been seeking to place the issue of immigration front and center in the elections, repeatedly warning against a caravan of Central American migrants making its way to the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced to deploy 5,200 active duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of this week in a bid to deter members of the migrant caravan from illegally entering the country.
"Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process," the president tweeted Monday. "This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!"
He also told a rally in state of Illinois on Saturday that the midterms will be "the election of the caravans, the Kavanaughs, law and order, tax cuts," as well as "the election of common sense." Enditem