The GOP’s top presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry (TX) recently discovered that his occasional compassion for undocumented children is a serious liability with the Republican base. But the other candidate from Texas, Rep. Ron Paul (R), appears to have learned that lesson long ago. Going far beyond opposition to any kind of DREAM Act legislation for children, Paul actually questions the validity of the Constitution because he doesn’t believe children born in the U.S. should automatically be U.S. citizens.
Mediaite reports that in an interview with Univision’s Al Punto on Sunday, Paul told host Jorge Ramos that his idea of immigration reform is a “program of assimilation.” But when Ramos asked Paul whether he liked the idea that those born on American soil are automatically citizens — an idea enshrined in the 14th Amendment — this “strict constitutionalist” declared, “No, I don’t think that should be automatic.” When Ramos pointed out that conflicts with the constitution, Paul argued “it depends on how you interpret the constitution”:
RAMOS: As you know, children of undocumented immigrants who are born in the United States are citizens Is that ok?
PAUL: I just think the mere fact of stepping across the border and having a child — and I’m an O.B. doctor and I’ve had to take a lot emergency deliveries and people came for the sole purpose of that. No, I don’t think that should be automatic. I think we should have more control of our borders.
RAMOS: So you want to change the constitution, is that what you’re saying?
PAUL: Well it depends on how you interpret the constitution. “Under the jurisdiction” is the big issue there, and that’s why so often debated. What does “under the jurisdiction” mean? If you’re illegal, you might not be considered under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.
Paul has long sought to demolish the 14th Amendment. The chief sponsor of a bill to deny birthright citizenship to any child born to an undocumented parent on American soil in 2007, Paul reiterated the need to “attack the benefits” of undocumented immigrants by ensuring “no free education, no free subsidies, no citizenship, no birthright citizenship.”
The irony here is that, in advocating for the most radically nativist immigration policy, Paul is attacking the one document he swears to live by: the Constitution. Under the 14th Amendment, “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.” As TP Justice editor Ian Millhiser notes, the language is “unambiguous” and is reinforced by the Supreme Court. In U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark and in Plyer v. Doe, the High Court “firmly rejected the notion that persons born in the US are not citizens, regardless of the immigration status of their parents.”
What’s more, the 14th Amendment’s “under the jurisdiction” language simply means that a person is subject to the laws of the U.S. If a child born on U.S. soil is not under the jurisdiction of U.S. laws, then the government has no authority to deport that child. And if illegal immigrants are not under the jurisdiction of U.S. laws as Paul suggests, then they can break U.S. law without consequence — which is certainly not the case.
When Ramos informed Paul that his unconstitutional position would lose him Hispanic support, Paul said “the idea that I have to kow-tow” to “a special group” by giving them “special privileges” is “unnecessary.” “I don’t want to punish anybody because they belong to a group, but nobody should get a special privilege either,” he said. Apparently to Paul, basic rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution now count as “a special privilege.”