During a brief Q&A with reporters yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump was asked about his latest criticism of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The president ignored the question and instead addressed the issue that prompted his pointed remarks at the congressional leader.
“Birthright citizenship is a very, very important subject. In my opinion, it’s much less complex than people think. I think it says it very loud and clear in the Constitution that you don’t have to go through the process of whatever they’re talking about.”
Wait, “whatever they’re talking about”? If the constitutional principle is “much less complex than people think,” why can’t the president talk about it in a coherent way?
Soon after, Trump headlined another campaign rally in Florida, where he declared, “[T]he Constitution does not – I say that to the media – does not require [birthright citizenship] – read it – because illegal aliens are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”
The 14th Amendment, enacted in the aftermath of the Civil War, states that everyone “born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Part of the president’s latest push is arguing that non-citizens are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, so we need not consider their children Americans, even if those kids are born on American soil.
Of course, as George Conway explained last night, “Were that true, then the government wouldn’t be able to arrest [undocumented immigrants]. Surely that’s not the president’s position. Clearly he has no comprehension of the words he’s using.”
And yet, he keeps using the words anyway. Here was the rest of Trump’s speech on the subject at his Florida rally:
“Birthright citizenship, you know all about it. We will keep the criminals, the drug dealers, we will keep them all out of our country. We will get rid of all of this. We will end, finally, birthright citizenship.”
Just so we’re clear, birthright citizenship doesn’t apply to criminals and drug dealers; it applies to infants.
I want to believe the president understands this, but given recent events, it’s tough to be sure.