Republican primaries can do funny things to politicians. It wasn’t too long ago that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), for example, supported comprehensive immigration and boasted about his support from Garden State’s Latino community.
Now that the Republican governor is running for president, he opposes the bipartisan reform package – “This path to citizenship stuff is garbage,” Christie said last week – and has no qualms about pandering to the anti-immigration elements in the Republican base.
Just how far is the New Jersey Republican prepared to go down this path? ThinkProgress flagged an interesting Christie quote from this morning.
In a radio appearance on Wednesday, conservative host Laura Ingraham asked Christie for his opinion on birthright citizenship, a topic he does not seem to have specifically addressed before. In response, Christie said he believed the policy may be outdated.“I think all this stuff needs to be reexamined in light of the current circumstances,” he said. “[Birthright citizenship] may have made sense at some point in our history, but right now, we need to re-look at all that.”
I can’t vouch for the exact wording – I didn’t hear the interview myself – but if Christie seriously believes birthright citizenship is ripe for a “reexamination,” he’s adopting a needlessly radical position, especially for someone who tried to be mainstream on the issue up until fairly recently.
As regular readers may recall, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t leave much in the way of wiggle room: the rights of American citizenship are given to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” The principle of birthright citizenship has been upheld by the Supreme Court many times since its enactment following the Civil War.
But as Republican politics moved sharply to the right, and anti-immigration sentiments within the GOP became more extreme, the party’s “constitutional conservatives” decided the principle, championed by Republicans nearly 150 years ago, is suddenly up for grabs.
Apparently, this even extends to presidential candidates. Earlier this year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) talked with a right-wing conspiracy-theory website, WorldNetDaily, and acknowledged his opposition to birthright citizenship, and now Christie apparently has concerns of his own.
In other words, what was a position embraced by the fringe is now going mainstream.
What’s less clear is exactly what kind of “reexamination” Christie intends to pursue. We’re not just talking about some random policy that exists at the discretion of the White House; this is the plain language of the U.S. Constitution.
“All this stuff needs to be reexamined in light of the current circumstances”? First, the 14th Amendment is more than just casual “stuff.” Second, what “circumstances” drives the governor to believe constitutional principles should be altered?
Here’s hoping it’s an issue Team Christie will elaborate on in the near future.